Monday, September 25, 2023

In the Company of Vampires

Allow me to make something very, very clear: I would never intentionally sit down to watch a movie written and directed by Neil LaBute. In fact, I had actually removed House of Darkness from my Hulu queue once I realized it was a product of one of my least favorite woman-hating trolls. 

But then weeks passed, it was early, and I quickly said, "this looks like a quick horror movie with a good poster," pressing play fully forgetting the entire reason it wasn't on my list.

So. Here we are. 

Quick Plot: Hap (scream king Justin Long) drives Mina (Kate Bosworth) home to her sprawling gothic castle to end their first date. He's a city boy who feels unsafe in the country, while she's an extremely confident heiress smoothly calling him out on his various bullshit. It's Justin Long: of course he's playing a smarmy bro.

They flirt, or rather, Hap thinks he's flirting by yammering away with the same effective ickiness Long used in Barbarian. Mina's sister Lucy (GET IT?) shows up to triple the date, giving Hap all sorts of typically gross ideas. He drinks whiskey, they, and at the 80 minute mark, we get to hear a Neil LaBute male character call women cunts. Order has been restored. 

I try to approach every film with an open mind, but when an artist has spent his entire professional career dedicated to telling his audience that women are evil (and doing so with little skill), I don't know that I owe this one a break. 

I'll say this for House of Darkness: it's short. 

It has to be, since it feels like one of the least ambitious films I've ever seen. LaBute obviously comes from a stage background, so it's not terribly surprising that the script reads more play than movie, and the actual staging offers nothing of visual interest. But it's a dull play even at that. 

I had a lot of issues with Barbarian (primarily the third what-exactly-are-we-trying-to-say-here act) but Justin Long's performance was certainly not one of them. He's exceedingly good at playing exceedingly awful, which makes Hap feel like something he filmed on his Barbarian lunch break. Well, in truth, the entire movie feels like it was made over a long weekend.

There's just no real energy, no real sense of danger or even surprise. We have sisters named Mina and Lucy and guess WHAT? They're vampires. Eventually, they kill Hap. Credits roll. 

Now mind you, I have nothing against the concept of dialogue-driven horror. It's just that if that's your style, make it interesting. Make it refreshing. Make it say something, ANYTHING. 

This movie does not agree. 

High Points
Kate Bosworth doesn't get many notes to play here (remember: it's a Neil LaBute script) but she's effectively captivating with the one she gets

Low Points
...if only her character, or any of the four we meet, offered a single surprise

Lessons Learned
If you really feel the need to brag to your friend about the hot rich chick you're about to bang, consider sending a text rather than a regular volume phone call. Also, it's 2023: who makes PHONE CALLS?

Good stories need to begin with "once upon a time"

Trust me: sisters do not ever want to have a threesome with you

Considering where I stand on Neil LaBute's work, I guess I'll concede that House of Darkness isn't nearly as infuriating as I expected it to be. Instead, it's just ... there. And then it's over, and we all will likely never think about it again. 

Unlike some of his other work...

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