Jeffrey Combs, starred in over 56 horror films noted for the Re-Animator films, and some fans recall his first Frightmare to his recently Suburban Gothic (2014) graced the screen as phenomenal grandiose promoter of haunted attractions in Dark House, from the creative mind and hands of Darin Scott. Darin served as both the screenwriter, who penned the script in thirteen days, and then as director for a production of eighteen days, impressive as this marked his first time in that chair of responsibility though he later claims it again in 2014 for Something Wicked. This film is in no way connected or related to director Victor Salva’s Dark House, which also a horror movie released date fell in 2014.
The back-story starts with Diane Salinger as Miss Darrode, giving a loony presentation as a religious zealot, who decides the orphans she cares to are actually all evil little monsters and cleanse for the Lord, through the only solution available their deaths Claire finds herself as the only child to escape the murder spree. Fast forward as does most of Darin’s script, allowing the audience only the briefest moments to capture the breath and reset themselves for the next jump cut. Claire, a young college student who finds therapy in her acting classes, but yet to face her demons clearly, until now, with Walston (Jeffrey Combs) playing haunted house operator seeking actors for one night of production as he sells his spook house to the press for fluff piece. A bit of trivia, Jeffrey full character name stated once, Walston Ray, as in Ray Walston, a legendary who passed in 2001, and many of his character he noted to portray a teacher or professor, Jeffrey claims himself as one, too. Claire (Meghan Ory) and her classmates venture to Dark House to partake in a Halloween scare-fest, for a few extra dollars, filling the team, Matt Cohen, Danso Gordon, Ryan Melander, Bevin Prince, and Shelly Cole (who is wrapping up first time as director of Body Keepers (2014)).
As all parties arrive at the address of the gothic, slightly Victorian house, the setting appears ready to spook, though from the street it seems quite ordinary, though what might seem innocent is in fact ruthlessly evil. After all the household was a murder-suicide bloodbath, of several children dying all for one’s twisted religious views. Once inside Walston’s carries on in a flamboyant manner, with twirls of hand movements, and highly technical realistic hologram creatures made to the bravest soul to shudder in fear, nearly wetting themselves. Once show time arrives, the students find their places and so does Darrode’s ghost in the machine (pun intended) and corrupt the computer system resulting in some the cast missing graduation. Soon the doors lock, windows too, all cell phones cease activity and the outside world vanishes and the house of death now advance to claim more lives, zeroing in on the child that once escaped – Claire.
Walston, brings the much needed flavor to the film, to keep it running smoothly, as he seems to pay subtle hints homage to both Vincent Price and Geoffrey Rush both who starred in their own versions of a haunted house, known as House on Haunted Hill (1956 and 1999 respectively). In addition, he adds personal traits to the mysterious wealthy executive with infamous haunted houses, pushing the fun and bizarreness elements a bit closer to the edge, and herein taking a luxurious bow to Gomez Addams. A bit of real life truth, a haunted house that contains both antique pieces used in real killings and the potential spirits attached to them, or that actually location was a place of grimness and murders, such an Eastern State Penitentiary, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Darin’s film never takes the center stage in a serious manner, knowing the CGI effects extends to the extreme a tad too much, and yet it stretches as if in carnival funhouse mirror. The low budget for Dark House uses all it has a springboard to roll the dice to whatever murderous villains the house generates, to executor, butcher, burn, and cause brutal insanity within the trapped individuals inside the household.
This film leans more to a horror comedy that likely finds a home on either Syfy or Chiller network, and has taken residence on Popcorn Flix and Hulu, for a quite some time, overall the production value, mixed with acting comes down halfway, and resulting in passing a lazy afternoon with a gross, sloppy, and gory enjoyable film.