A muddled but moderately entertaining effort.
Director Victor Salva's latest generically titled film, Dark House, which was changed from the even more generic title, Haunted, is a muddled affair aimed directly between the eyes of fans of the horror genre. Most folk will know Salva for two films of note by the director, Jeepers Creepers, his 2001 horror which spawned a sequel with a third having just been announced to be released sometime in the next year or two, and the ambitious, Powder, a fantasy flick from 1995, about an albino boy with special powers. Unlike many filmmakers who do a fair amount of horror, Salva doesn't make many films, with a gap of two or three years in between each movie, with his last the less than popular thriller, Rosewood Lane, in 2011.
We begin Dark House with Nick Di Santo (Luke Kleintank) visiting his mother in a mental institution, where they have an argument about his father. Nick's mother refuses to speak about him but after Nick touches her, he has a vision where he sees her burning to death. Nick has had this power for as long as he can remember, and a few days later, after celebrating his 23rd birthday, he learns of his mother's death, exactly the way he saw it in the vision.
8-months pass and he's called to his mother's lawyer's office, where he's given the deeds to a mystery house, the same house he's been having visions of since childhood. When he finally finds the house, which isn't easy seeing as the house decided to move location during a flood, he comes across Seth (Tobin Bell), a crazy man who appears to be living in the house, who warns Nick to stay away and never come back. Nick is accompanied by his heavily-pregnant girlfriend, Eve (Alex McKenna) and best friend Ryan (Anthony Rey Perez), and during the search for the house are joined by three land surveyors. After the visit to the house, the group are chased by a gang of axe-dragging, long-haired men, who run like chimps but can throw their axes like Abraham Lincoln (well, of course I meant the Vampire Hunter). The group try to escape but everytime they try to get away, they inexplicably end up back at the house, where death and a mystery awaits them.
Dark House felt bogged down with too much side story which never gets fully exploited, yet may have added something better to the story. For example, the "demon" who could make things vanish, like the townsfolk, was something that could have been elaborated on. It was never made clear but it appeared as though Nick, Eve and Ryan lived together. Menage et trois?
The performances were quite good, with Tobin Bell doing his Tobin Bell expectedly well. Apart from Bell, I'm not familiar with the rest of the cast but I found Luke Kleintank as Nick done a solid job, as did Anthony Rey Perez as Ryan. Alex McKenna as the pregnant Eve was also very good, with even the writer-producer, Charles Agron, doing an OK job. It's safe to assume Dark House was done on a tight budget, however, the production values were certainly decent, with the old house making a great creepy setting. The running time was a bit too long and at 102-minutes could have lost 10-15 of those, particularly from the second half of the film.
For all its faults, Dark House was watchable and moderately entertaining, with some good gore for those of you looking for some realistic carnage. It's not a film I would go out of my way to watch but you won't mind that you did.
Review by Ed Blackadder, Lead Entertainment WriterShare: