Dark House (2009)

DVD Cover (Phase 4 Films)
Genres: Haunted House Film, Horror
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Darin Scott Darin Scott
Jeffrey Combs Jeffrey Combs
Meghan Ory Meghan Ory
Diane Salinger Diane Salinger
Matt Cohen Matt Cohen
Shelly Cole Shelly Cole
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4.9 / 10 - Overall Rating

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Review by Chad
Added: June 13, 2015
Another weekend with the woman, another random movie popped in, and another review for a movie that I hadn't even heard of prior to last night. All I knew about it was that it centered around a haunted house and had Jeffrey Combs in the leading role - that was the extent of my knowledge. Did it get favorable reviews, or was it considered a flop? Was it scary, or did it go for the laughs? I had no idea what to expect, and I will repeat what I said in a previous review: it's pretty nice to go in completely blind like that every now and then. It's hard to do such when running a site like this, so I transform into one happy camper when the opportunity presents itself like that... especially when the movie turns out to be pretty damned good.

The movie begins with a group of kids standing outside a so-called haunted house, when one of the little girls decides to be brave and enter the house to see what all the fuss is about. She walks in, and the first thing she notices is a dead kid laying on the floor in a pool of blood. Then, she notices another corpse... and another... and still another. Yes, some kind of massacre happened here, but the worst comes when she spots an older woman (Diane Salinger) shoving her own hands into the kitchen sink's garbage disposal, which has obvious and grisly consequences. The woman dies, the kid passes out, and we fast forward to...

...roughly fifteen years later, where Claire (Meghan Ory) is still dealing with the trauma of what happened in that house on that day. Her therapist is constantly pressuring her to take her medication, but Claire is resisting due to the pills interfering with her acting abilities. Yes, the woman with the fucked up head is an actress, which is pretty funny when you think about it. Anyway, her doctor eventually recommends that facing her fears and visiting the house may relieve her of some of the trauma and nightmares, but she is hesitant to do so for obvious reasons.

She's hesitant, that is, until a man waltzes into her advanced acting class and offers the students an amazing opportunity. It turns out that this man, Walston (Jeffrey Combs), owns some of the scariest haunted house attractions in the country, and he has just purchased the house where those murders took place. He intends to transform it into his scariest tourist attraction yet, and he needs some actors to help him out with the test run. Claire decides that being in the house will help her with her mental issues, and being there with all of her friends will make it much easier. Of course, what she doesn't count on is the place being truly haunted by the ghost of that woman with the stumps for hands, alongside the assorted other ghosts and goblins. What should have been a therapeutic night with a couple of laughs quickly turns into a night of bloodshed and carnage.

One of the neat ideas in the movie is how the haunted house itself is set up. You see, the big gimmick of the house is that there are infrared beams placed all around the premises, and triggering one prompts a holographic ghost or zombie or whatever to appear and stalk or attack the visitor. For example, one holograph features a creepy clown with an axe making his way down a hallway towards the person, and along the way, the clown smashes some things with said axe. Totally real, right? I mean, you're seeing him break physical objects and you're hearing the noises, so this is at the very least an actor with a legitimate axe as a prop. Then, the clown reaches the person, raises the axe, and brings it down full-force right into their face... and that's when they realize, the entire thing was a holograph with sound effects thrown in. That's an amazing idea, and I'd personally love to visit a haunted house that uses that gimmick. The problem for the visitors in this movie, however, is that not everything is a holograph. What happens when that clown reappears later on, with the same axe in his hand, and this time, he's very much a real and credible threat? That makes the movie interesting, never really knowing what is real and what isn't.

Of course, it should go without saying that once the first couple of bodies hit the floor, the majority of the monsters turn out to be very real. This is another perk of the movie, the variety of baddies that we're given. There's the aforementioned clown, but there's also a woman with knife-like fingernails, zombies, vampires, a dismembered woman with all of her body parts impaled on hooks, the butcher that did it to her, and other little surprises along the way. I think that any one of those may have gotten boring with a movie built around them, so the concept of each having their own little bit of time to shine was an excellent one: you see this new monster, you figure out what is going on with it, it does something, and then it's on to the next thing. None of them have a chance to wear out their welcome, so you don't have to worry about the movie slowing down even if you see one that doesn't particularly interest you.

Speaking of which, I found the pacing of the movie to be pretty close to perfect. The introduction to the house is pretty shocking and sets the tone for the movie, we meet the main characters, we see the "fake" version of the haunted house, and from there, it's pretty much nonstop horror. These people are trapped in a house with things that want to kill them. Shit happens. It doesn't slow down, there's no dull moments, and with the exception of a few brief scenes, it just moves along at a perfect speed. Just to top things off, there's a nice twist ending that worked rather well for the overall movie, and much like the holographs, it shows that you can't always believe what you see. I liked that idea.

Overall, the core idea may not be the most original thing on the planet, but the execution and presentation make it very worth your while if haunted houses are your cup of tea. There are some very neat ideas in the storyline, there are some memorable monsters and moments in the movie, and Jeffrey Combs is simply hilarious in his role. Check it out. 8/10.
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