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Dark House: Film Review

Dark Horse Still - H 2014
Courtesy of PR

The Bottom Line

The generic title is not even the most unimaginative element of this overstuffed, cliche-ridden horror film.

Opens

Friday, March 14 (Paladin)

Cast

Luke Kleintank, Anthony Ray Perez, Alex McKenna, Lesley-Anne Down, Tobin Bell

Director

Victor Salva

Victor Salva's horror film involves a young man with clairvoyant powers who inherits a mysterious country house.

Playing like a virtual compendium of horror film cliches, Dark House represents a regression for director Victor Salva, who helmed the far superior Jeepers Creepers. This tale about a young man possessing mysterious gifts who discovers that he’s inherited a decrepit old house throws a bit of everything into its ungainly mix, including the presence of horror film icon Tobin Bell (the Saw films). But the overstuffed film is definitely less than the sum of its admittedly occasionally scary parts.

The central character is Nick (Luke Kleintank), who on his 23rd birthday visits his mother (Lesley-Anne Down), who’s been in a mental institution since he was a child. Nick’s ability to foresee how a person will die is signified by his vision of her dying in a fire, a prophecy that almost immediately becomes reality when the loony bin goes up in flames.

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Informed by the family lawyer (Max Gail of Barney Miller fame) that he’s inherited an old house in the country that he’s somehow managed to be able to draw since childhood without ever actually seeing it, Nick sets off with his best friend, Ryan (Anthony Ray Perez), and his very pregnant girlfriend, Eve (Alex McKenna), to investigate its whereabouts. Not dissuaded by some hayseed types who inform them that it was washed away in a torrential flood years earlier, the trio soon discover it, although not without nearly running down some friendly land surveyors along the way.

Naturally, the house is guarded by a menacing caretaker, Seth (Bell), who attempts to warn them away. It isn’t long before violent mayhem ensues, with the young interlopers pursued by Seth’s gang of ax-wielding troglodytes whose awkward gait makes them resemble escaped gorillas.

Throw in some ominous biblical prophecies, a discourse on the cosmic significance of the number 23 (a theme previously explored in the 2007 Jim Carrey film The Number 23), and some nasty twists involving several supporting characters who turn out to be not quite who they seem, and it soon becomes obvious that the screenplay co-written by Salva and Charles Agron has bitten off far more than it can comfortably chew.

Featuring heavy doses of gore supplanted by ear-piercing, sudden loud noises to ratchet up the tension, the visually cluttered Dark House -- its unimaginative title representing a slight improvement over its even more unimaginative original title, Haunted -- fails to weave its numerous plot strands into a coherent whole. And while Bell infuses his stringy-haired character with his characteristic creepy flair, it’s not hard to imagine that the actor, who also co-produced, is merely biding his time until the Saw franchise is inevitably resurrected.

Production: Charles Agron Productions, Blue Horse Pictures

Cast: Luke Kleintank, Anthony Rey Perez, Alex McKenna, Lesley-Anne Down, Tobin Bell, Zack Ward, Lacey Anzelc, Ethan S. Smith, Max Gail

Director: Victor Salva

Screenwriters: Charles Agron, Victor Salva

Producers: Charles Agron, Don E. Fauntleroy, Victor Salva

Executive producer: Michael Agron

Director of photography: Don E. Fauntleroy

Production designer: Carmi Gallo

Costume designer: Lynette Meyer

Editor: Ed Marx

Composer: Bennett Salvay

Rated R, 103 minutes