Wednesday, December 5, 2012

This Old (Dark) House

When someone with the pedigree for detecting hilariously flawed genre films suggests I watch something, you can bet a solid block of sharp cheddar cheese that it will be done. Today's such recommendation comes courtesy of Night of the Living Podcast's Amy, and that folks is some true horror royalty.

Quick Plot: As a young girl, Claire entered a creepy home known for its redheaded spinster keeper raising foster kids inside. As the lady of the house sticks her arm inside the garbage disposal, Claire discovers a dozen or so children slain.

Flash forward some years to Claire, now a college student with a crappy therapist and the hilarious dream of becoming an actress. At school, she attends class with a bevy of other attractive young people to play the world’s worst theater game (if putting two students on stage and having them be mean to each other is considered a theater game). 

As blond, black, and gay jokes swirl about, Dark House finds itself tiptoeing on a fine line between insufferableness and joy. Thankfully, just as the characters were getting too awful for our own good, Jeffrey Combs waltzes in like a national treasure to deliver one of the film’s many amazing lines:

“Is this the...advanced acting class?”

After I cluck like a chicken in imagining how amazingly awful the introductory class must be, Combs lures the (gaaaaaahahahaha) advanced actors to his haunted house attraction for an honest day’s work. Despite their misgivings of not getting Shakespearean dialogue, Claire convinces the stars-in-the-making to take the job, mostly because it will give her a chance to confront the very same house she’s been afraid of since, you know, discovering 14 dead kids in as a child.

To give Dark House some credit, its haunted house attraction is actually fairly nifty. Combs’ Vincent Price-y character has, you see, recruited the services of a super IT nerd to program a batch of realistic holograms to follow patrons. Naturally, a computer virus (or DEMON, um, virus) sneaks in when the doors are locked, releasing a gaggle of axe-wielding clowns, iron maiden closing executioners, and acid-throwing scientists on the next generation's Oscar seat fillers.

You have to kind of love a movie like Dark House. Like an off-brand Hostess Snowball, it's made of crap and induces the same result, but the quick journey towards it is not without pleasure. Writer/director Darin Scott is clearly enthusiastic about throwing a lot of stuff onscreen, and while some of its effects are laughable, there's also a lot of charm. Jeffrey Combs has a ball with his free reign, while the variety of monsters keeps things interesting. Sure, the kids are all unlikable, the twist is silly (then sillier), and CGI looks as good as any college level computer science major can render, but when heads are flying so gleefully, I can't be unhappy.

High Notes
Any straight-to-DVD horror flick that ends with its own theme song has to get a fist pump from me

Low Notes
Though I’ll laugh over some of the lesbian jokes shortly, I also have to point out that Dark House has a rather mean streak of homophobia running through it, using any chance it can get to force sapphic overtones that might have been intended as edgy but come off as cheap

So about that twist...nah, nevermind

Lessons Learned
Acting is the art of communicating with the audience through the use of realistic and authentic behavior

If a lesbian saves your life, you will then be expected to do her (her words, not mine)

Half of the best actors got their start in horror movies

You shouldn’t go to houses where weird kids live

Boyfriends are for driving you to childhood memories

The second entry I’ve watched in Fangoria’s Frightfest (the first being the okay Hunger) continues to be fairly mediocre. At the same time, I had a blast watching Dark House at 7 AM before going to work, and I can only imagine how much better that experience would be with alcohol. Throw it on the instant queue for one of those drunk/dumb nights. If nothing else, you get one of the most random jokes at the expense of Windows Vista to ever pop up in a horror film. So far...


  1. Well on the subject of hilariously flawed genre films, I'm here to remind you of Goodbye, 20th Century, a trashy Macedonian post-apocalyptic arthouse christmas film involving incest, guns, The Joker, and a mean santa who packs heat! It'll be a fine canditate for a christmas review!

    As I said last time I mentioned it, the film is only on VHS, and very hard to find, but luckily the whole movie is on youtube!

  2. Score! Note to self. Especially now that I finally figured out how to stream youtube on my big screen!

  3. I eagerly await your thoughts on it!

    One of my sisters once did someting like that with my tv. She watched a movie on it via a USB...Unfortuntely said film was Twilight: New Moon!...Granted, she didn't force me to watch it, I was just feeling masochistic! haha! Naturally, I haven't seen a Twilight film since!