A man drives a beautiful woman he’s just met home hoping for a bit more than one last drink. Once at her secluded estate, things get a bit creepier than expected for him.
Written and directed by Neil LaBute, this modern gothic tale drips with atmosphere and Hammeresque goodness, however the story itself feels a bit thin in spots, taking the 1h28min runtime and somewhat making it feel a bit long here and there throughout the film. Yes, the twists in the story and the way most of it develops is interesting, but something feels off and not off in a fun, creepy way, more like off like something is either missing or trying too hard. The writing is decent, the mystery around the woman and her life is interesting, but some of the evolution of it feels like it takes too long, like it’s all about the atmosphere and not really about the characters. Of course, things make sense in the end, but is it enough?
The cast here is excellent. Justin Long comes off just a wee bit off which is perfect for the part, Kate Bosworth is charming, ethereal, mysterious, she gives off all kinds of vibes that are just perfect for this gothic tale, she looks and comes off very much the part of someone with a massive secret that could change everything. Gia Crovatin and Lucy Walters round out the cast and do mysterious very well as well. The cast here is really small, just four people and they all give good performances, giving eerie and sometimes creepy performances, reacting how one would in their position with their positions in life. The film does make the most of these performances at times, but there is something missing a mentioned above and it shows a little bit in the performances as well.
The one thing the film is lacking none of is atmospheres. The feel of the film is dripping in modern gothic goodness. The estate the film takes place at, the décor, the dresses for the ladies (sorry Mr. Long that suit isn’t not exactly gothic or even great), the lighting, the vibes overall, this film is perfect on that front. The cinematography by Daniel Katz is stunning and makes the most of the location. The scenes in the reading room/foyer/sitting room are beautiful and make the most of the candlelight, bringing that atmosphere up with great images.
House of Darkness is mostly enjoyable and at less than 90 minutes, it doesn’t overstay its welcome. However, the pacing feels off here and there and that throws off the mystery and the building tension, hurting the film overall. The aesthetics are pretty flawless and the images brought the screen remind of Hammer films and other greats of yesteryears in the gothic cinematic landscape. Bosworth is lovely to watch here in her presence and her performance, really giving the mysterious, eerie, ethereal character she has here her all.