In Dark House, a group of aspiring actors are approached at acting class to join the cast of a haunted house attraction. The proprietor makes them an offer that is financially appealing to the out of work actors and they reluctantly agree to be a part of the venture. Almost immediately after the performers come on board, the interactive exhibits begin to come alive and proceed to lock the guests and employees in the house. The evil that has come to life then begins to kill the patrons and staff. The young actors are then forced to go head to head with pure evil in an attempt to survive the night.
Dark House was part of Fangoria Fright Fest 2010. It is one of eight films that are part of the lineup and won an online contest that secured the film a limited theatrical release, in addition to the DVD and VOD distribution deal that all of the titles received. My assessment is that the voters got it right. Having seen all of the affiliated titles, it is my verdict that Dark House is among the best titles associated with the 2010 Fright Fest lineup. Its fellow Fright Fest contender Fragile was probably a better film but Dark House is the type of feature that appeals to a broader audience and therefore it makes sense that it was chosen by viewers.
I really enjoyed Dark House. It is co-written and directed by Darin Scott (Something Wicked). It shows that he has a good understanding of how to put together a horror film. The script is unique enough to set it apart from a lot of other haunted house films. Setting the feature in a haunted attraction with a large staff and a group of patrons is a setup that allows for a lot more possibilities and a higher body count than the average film in the haunted house sub-genre. It’s apparent that Darin Scott isn’t a director with years of experience under his belt. There are some minor bumps in the road that may not have been there if the film were directed by a veteran but Scott still succeeds in setting up most of the scenes for maximum atmosphere and is able to coax generally suitable performances from his cast.
The scares are legitimate: While there are a couple of requisite jump scares, the tension that the film creates and the bountiful frights are entirely genuine. The backstory of the house where the film is set and the primary antagonist are plenty creepy and will definitely keep viewers on edge.
The film stars genre legend Jeffrey Combs as the proprietor of the haunted attraction and Meghan Ory (Decoys) as Claire, an aspiring actress that sufferers from a series of recurring nightmares and crippling anxiety as the result of a childhood trauma. Jeffrey Combs (Re-Animator) is in his element here. He could sleepwalk through the film and still turn in a reasonable performance but he doesn’t phone it in; he is on point in every scene and a great addition to the cast. The rest of the performers start out a little weak but as the intensity increases so do the quality of the performances. The mostly inexperienced cast seems to be more prone to thrive in a high-pressure situation but their collective lack of proficiency was more noticeable in the first act when their characters were still being introduced.
In terms of effects, the film showcases a variety of different techniques, all of which are impressive. The FX appear to have been achieved through a mixture of practical and CGI but mostly practical effects are employed. The bloodshed is ample but not excessive. Dark House features a nearly perfect blend of atmosphere and bloodshed.
If you haven’t checked out Dark House, it is a fun film with a great performance from Jeffrey Combs; it boasts a series of intricately designed makeup effects, a unique premise, and plenty of scares.
Director(s): Darin Scott
Writer(s): Darin Scott, Kerry Douglas Dye
Stars: Jeffrey Combs, Meghan Ory, Dianne Salinger
Studio/ Production Co: Lightning Media
Sub-Genre: Haunted House