How are we more than halfway through the month of October already? How have I watched 16 things in 16 days when I can barely manage that amount of viewing in an entire year?
And HOW did I sit through this entire movie? YIKES. To say it was a slow burn is an egregious understatement. I think instead I might say an “excruciating slog.” But at the same time, I don’t think it was awful, like not the worst thing I’ve ever seen kind of awful. I am not sure how those two things can both be true at the same time, but here we are.
As House of Darkness opens, Hap (Justin Long) and Mina (Kate Bosworth) are tootling along a dark road, he is driving her home from the bar where they initially met, earlier that evening. There is an awkward abundance of clumsy small talk in which Long repeatedly backpedals and sticks his foot in his mouth, while Mina’s contributions to the conversation are a mixture of enigmatic non-answers and frank observations that further fluster her companion. She then inexplicably invites him inside her home, a huge, creepy, olde-timey mansion. I say “inexplicably,” but oh–we know. We know from the very beginning what’s going to happen and I think that’s why every minute lasts an hour in the journey to finally get there.
What ensues is an agonizingly humdrum game of cat and mouse wherein Mina teases and flirts with Hap, or at least that’s what Hap thinks is happening. In reality, she’s playing with him–not in the coquettish way he thinks, but rather how a calculating predator may toy with their prey–and unbeknownst to him, she is drawing out this mockery of a one-night-stand and savoring every strained and ill at ease moment of it. Hap, being the mediocre white man that he is, has every confidence he is getting laid this night; he as much as says so in a furtive phone call with a coworker he had been at the bar with.
I think House of Darkness had interesting potential. If it had been shorter and punchier–this was a story that could have been told in a half-hour run time. If the dialogue had been more clever (it was so, so dull.) If there had been *something* to make up for the lack of surprise. We know from the beginning where this story is headed, so my thought is that you need to either completely flip our expectations on their head, OR make the place where we know we’re ending up that much more over the top and batshit insane. Make it worth the ride for folks who go into a story knowing exactly how it is going to play out.
Anyway, I did say it wasn’t the worst thing I’ve ever seen. And I will stand by that. But I would not recommend this one. It’s not surprising and it’s not scary, and if you have a problem with characters being awkward or embarrassing themselves, I will warn you that there is a lot of that in this film. Yvan overheard me watching it and I could feel him cringe halfway across the house (he’s the kind of person who makes an excuse to leave the room if we are watching something where this happens.) If, in spite of all of this, you want to watch House of Darkness, you can find it for $6.99 on YouTube, AppleTV and Prime, OR you can pay nothing for it, like I did–because I found it in my library streaming through Hoopla.
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