Dark House (2009)

darkhouse5I’m not going to pretend “Dark House” is an original horror outing. As a film it’s basically a pastiche of “The Haunting,” “House on Haunted Hill,” and “Thirteen Ghosts” with a skosh of “Haute Tension” for good measure. But in spite of the inherent derivations, I couldn’t help but have a damn good time sitting through “Dark House.” It’s deep down a very light on logic party horror film that you can sit through with friends and never be bored with. Even when it’s attempting to exposit the characters back stories, it really is at warp speed so that it can get to the bloodshed and gore. Thankfully I didn’t have much of a problem with that.

Once you’re able to accept it for what it is, “Dark House” is a pleasing and entertaining horror film with comic elements that thankfully work and work well. The premise is fairly simple. After a traumatic event as a child at the neighborhood haunted house (every good suburban area should have one), Claire was left emotionally stifled. For some reason her inability to face her demons has affected her acting. As an aspiring actress she is apart of a local troupe who excels in unusual exercises. One day she and the troupe are approached by a local exhibitioner/promoter to perform in the very house Claire had her experience in as a young girl. Jeffrey Combs has a blast as the slimy Walston who hopes to exploit the multiple murders that ensued in the house by staging his very own high tech haunted house attraction for the locals and recruits Claire and her troupe to act in the amusement attraction.

Hoping to use this experience as a form of therapy, Claire agrees to perform and convinces her friends to take the job. Why did Walston approach the group rather than asking a local agent? One only knows, but this allows for Claire to enter in to the house where she confronted the most awful evil that left her emotionally stunted. Armed with top of the line holograms, the house promises many scares, but something evil has been unearthed. Technologically proficient demons have just taken over the computer system for the haunted house and now the holograms are murdering people for real. Normally I don’t mind the murder of aspiring actors, but these holograms are most sadistic and the spirit of the house owner is intent on settling some scores with Claire.

“Dark House” is gladly never a film that takes itself or the premise too seriously and relies on one-liners to ease the lapses in logic and inherent questionable plot motivation. How can the holograms sense fear, again? Isn’t the concept of fear something broad by definition? How did the ghost of Mrs. Darrode find the time to study algorithms and firewalls that allowed her the ability to create her own trojan virus? Nevertheless, once the blood begins to pour, “Dark House” goes full throttle and rarely ever relents in being disturbing and creepy. Once the holograms take on a life of their own, the general amusement becomes two fold with some prime gore and rather inventive kill scenes.

“Dark House” obviously borrows from a lot of classic haunted house movies, and it shows, but that doesn’t detract from the fun and general entertainment. I had fun watching a man get his head lopped off by a mace, and I loved the line “War is hell” prior to the most brutal kill. And you have to appreciate the sheer lunacy of the multiple twist ending. It just works. The cast all give very strong performances, with most of them not taking the material seriously and just having a good time. “Dark House” just works as a haunted house movie for the modern era, flaws and all. It’s a rather flawed with a premise that’s anemic in logic and sense, but in the end “Dark House” is great horror comedy fodder with good performances, a brisk pace, and a demented twist ending that will leave audiences gazing in disbelief. I had a kick with this and I implore haunted house movie geeks to look this up.