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August 26, 2016

Dark House

by Franz Patrick


Dark House (2014)
★ / ★★★★

Nick (Luke Kleintank) visits his mother (Lesley-Anne Down) at the mental hospital during his twenty-third birthday, but a nice time between them is not on the agenda. Nick has a strange ability: by merely touching a person with his hands, he is able to foresee how he or she is going to die. An exception: the death must be especially gruesome or else he will not see a thing. It appears as though Lilian has been talking to something in the walls again.

“Dark House,” written by Charles Agron and Victor Salva, is a convoluted grab bag of horror offerings. At one point or another, it hopes to be a supernatural thriller, a creature-feature picture, or a slasher flick. What results is a project that moves forward but sans identity—the characters speak but the words carry no substance, thrown into danger but the situations hold no genuine suspense, and die with very little impact.

Agron and Salva never figured out a way to circumvent the innate problem in their main character’s psychic gift. By allowing us to see what he sees, accompanied by a line where Nick claims that his visions occur without fail, we know exactly who is going to live or die—and how. When the inevitable chase scenes take place, they offer no thrill because we already know who will die and under what circumstance.

There are interesting elements dispersed throughout the picture but they are not enough to save the entire work. For instance, I found the tall, long-haired figures that chase their targets as if they have a spine disorder—but are able to throw an axe, their weapon of choice, extremely well—to be somewhat menacing. Also, I liked the history behind the house that has been washed in a great flood. It refers to the story of Noah and the Bible which connects to some of the explanations provided during the latter half. If only the writers have developed their screenplay in such a way that would have connected religion, possible supernatural elements, and the insanity of what is going on. Bill Paxton’s “Frailty” is an excellent example of a picture that this film wanted to be.

Further, it lacks convincing relationships so it is a challenge to relate with any of the characters. Nick and Eve (Alex McKenna) feel nothing but a plot contrivance. Kleintank and McKenna have little to no chemistry. When she tries to console him during his seizure-like episodes, I saw her as a sister-like figure rather than a girlfriend. At one point—and I was so amused—I suspected that Nick and his roommate, Ryan (Anthony Rey Perez), were some sort of secret lovers because Perez and Kleintank actually have chemistry. They have one scene where Nick catches Ryan “smelling like sex.” Ryan picks up a stench of jealousy.

Nothing exciting happens in “Dark House,” directed by Victor Salva, other than people running in the woods, to the dilapidated house, and then back outside again. It is repetitive, it tests the patience, and is not very creative. Thus, it is not fun to watch since the filmmakers fail to inject something special in tracks we all have traveled a thousand times before.

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