Jeepers Creepers director Victor Salva is back with another horror flick, and goddamn he throws A LOT of stuff into this one. Dark House is a whirlwind of twists, gore, and cliches all packaged up in a demented tale of rural carnage. Many of the bits and pieces of the narrative are familiar, but Salva puts these tropes to good use to shape his own brand of terror. Although it doesn’t always work, there are enough fun moments to make Dark House one to watch, especially thanks to its berserk second half.
The movie is longer than it needs to be by about 15 minutes because there is so freaking much going on. In particular, there are some hammy scenes of melodrama that don’t fit and make the dash to the finish line feel a little clumsy. These hiccups distract from the main narrative as well, which is absolutely bonkers and requires no side romance bullshit.
Nick Di Santo is a young, disturbed individual. He’s cursed with the power of premonition. If he touches someone, he can sometimes see their death. His mother is locked up in an asylum, which burns to the ground shortly after he visits her. She leaves Nick an old mansion, so he packs up two buddies and his pregnant girlfriend to go check it out. But first they have to find it.
The locals claim the house was destroyed in a flood years back, but there’s an urban legend about it still intact somewhere deep in the woods. As they’re looking for it, Nick and co. cross paths with a team of land surveyors who show them the way. Once they find the house, the movie unravels a barrage of well-worn horror material, including biblical demons, a creepy cellar, and the titular haunted house. There’s also Tobin Bell of Saw fame playing the creepy caretaker, who may or may not have Nick’s best intentions in mind.
While there’s a lot of familiar territory here, Dark House‘s story plays out in a way I didn’t see coming. When Salva makes this cliche cornucopia work, he makes it work really, really well. I especially dug the axe-wielding henchmen – they’re good for a few nightmares. At times the story is in danger of coming off the rails, but overall it’s a decent tale that’s certainly one of the most original haunted house films I’ve seen recently. Because right when I thought I had it figured out, Salva throws seven curve balls at once.
When the film pulls back from its horror core, it does stumble a bit. Like I mentioned earlier, there’s some melodrama thrown in that feels terribly forced. Those parts could’ve been shaved to create a tighter narrative. But overall Dark House is a fun horror romp that uses its many influences to create its own monster.
Cinedigm is releasing Dark House on VOD and home video on March 14.