Dark House (2013)

Michelle (Kaylee DeFer) is unemployed and as we join her she is desperately searching the classifieds for jobs. It turns out that she’s in rehab following a car accident that claimed the lives of three of her friends and left her as the only survivor. One possibility for employment takes her to 1040 Mill View Lane, a large property that appears more like a stately home. On arrival she’s told that instead of doing some PR work which is what she was lead to believe she was there for, she is in demand for some modelling for a ‘real estate weekly’ magazine.

The house indeed is huge, and Michelle is whisked through the endless corridors to a dressing room where she is provided with an outfit, shoes and make-up. During this new assignment for Michelle we are provided with a number of flashbacks which look back at her time spent in the rehab facility and offer more detail with regard to her state of mind and also the mental state in which the accident left her. It also highlights the rather dictatorial stance taken by the lead psychiatrist that resulted in Michelle remaining in rehab for much longer than she herself felt was necessary. This is certainly another factor in establishing her rather fragile state of mind.

Meanwhile back at 1040 Mill View Lane, once fully prepared for her ‘photo shoot’ Michelle finds herself roaming the corridors of the house searching for Larry (Christian Campbell) who hired her for the job, and discovers some very concerning things such as photographs of her getting undressed just minutes previously and weird video footage being played on a small portable television. Is this simply her delicate sensibility playing tricks on her mind, or is there something more sinister at play?

I must admit the first third of Dark House intrigued me. It had a genuinely interesting character with a solid backstory that had a level of depth to it. Sadly though, as the film progressed it seemed to sink into the usual contemporary horror pitfalls of becoming a somewhat nonsensical gore-fest reliant heavily on torture. I’m no Daily Mail journalist with a puritanical view on their grimly created ‘torture-porn’ moniker, as I really do have a deep rooted love of the red stuff. If that involves shackles, cuffs and the peeling of skin from body parts then so be it! However, the descent into this from what began as a very nicely poised character study can only be described as disappointing.

Michaelbrent Collings has written two features now, and coincidentally I reviewed his debut script only two weeks ago – the WWE produced Barricade. The two films are very different, yet also display striking similarities such as the schizophrenic direction that they seem to take and the attempt to blend differing aspects of the genre that don’t seem to mix. It’s a shame as with Dark House they have a good lead actress in Kaylee DeFer and a premise that could have gone in a more natural destination.

A final word on our beloved distributor Three Wolves, and for once I’m not beginning a review by highlighting their inadequacies as worthy distributors of horror films for they’re just consigned to a footnote. To be honest there is not as much to pick apart as usual from this release apart from the ubiquitous title change, Darkroom > Dark House. That said, they still insist on committing an offence that I consider to be incredibly heinous, and that’s the creation of fake cover quotes. For Dark House we have “Sick, twisted… outstanding” from ‘Tombstone Review’ and also “one of the most terrifying films ever released” from ‘DVD Review’. These are fake, and I consider it to be deception to put such false praise on a DVD box.

Caveat emptor – buyer beware.

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