- Kate Bosworth, Justin Long, Gia Crovatin
- Neil LaBute
- Release date
- Sep 13, 2022
- Where to watch
Set outside of an unspecified American city sometime in the here and now, House of Darkness follows Hap Jackson, played by Justin Long (Dodgeball, Live Free or Die Hard) as his date with Mina Murray, played by Kate Bosworth (90 Minutes in Heaven, Blue Crush), wraps up…or does it?
HOUSE OF DARKNESS
The film opens with cheesy horror-film music and a black title card with red lettering and antique filagree like that of silent-era films. Next, the camera fades in and we see a luxury vehicle driving through the fog on a country road. It enters a comically creaky wrought iron gate, and the film’s tone feels set. House of Darkness is going to be a fun and campy homage to B horror films from yesteryear. It is not. Actually, it’s not much of anything.
To say that House of Darkness is slow and plodding is like saying that Michael Bay films might have a gun or two in them. It doesn’t come close to an adequate description. It was clearly the goal of the filmmakers to create a film with slow-burning tension. They did not. Separated into three distinct acts, all three consist almost entirely of sitting and banal conversation or standing and more banal conversation, just in three different rooms. This might not present a problem if the dialogue was remotely engaging or the filmmakers conveyed any sense of competency. It isn’t and they do not.
With an uncomfortable and amateurish delivery, Justin Long plays Hap, a financial advisor who met Mina in a bar earlier that night and is trying to now bed her while Mina asks him awkward questions and builds tension(?) with her aloofness. Clearly, she isn’t what she seems, and so begins the interminable wait for her big reveal. Kate Bosworth does what she can with what she’s been given, which isn’t much, but at least her performance is consistent with the film’s overall tone and from one moment to the other. That’s more than I can say for Long. His Hap isn’t douchey enough to root for his death or nice enough to cheer on. Instead, his incessant prattling just makes you wish the film would end. It feels as though Long, who had his breakout role as the ungainly nerd in Galaxy Quest, was told to ad-lib, and he did his standard beta-male bumbling. It’s a one-note trick that has been done successfully in other films but falls flat in this one.
Even the final reveal is done with such heavy-handedness, that it feels like a film student’s attempt instead of that of a filmmaker who’s been directing movies since 1997. It’s dumb and gross for the sake of being gross.
With the best thing that I’m able to say about the movie being that the camera was always in focus and the shots were adequately framed, House of Darkness isn’t even a swing and a miss. It’s the misshapen afterbirth of a better film’s first draft. If you’re looking for suspense, watch 1990’s Misery instead.
Much like the rest of the film, the revelation of the antagonists’ motivation is incoherent nonsense. I think that the movie is trying to say that because a group of bad men did something bad a long time ago, and a completely unrelated guy many generations later has no game, men are pigs and whatever happens to them is deserved. However, it might not be saying that. There’s no way to know…the movie is too bad to tell. That being said, every man in, or mentioned in, the film (with the exclusion of an allusion to Dracula) is either evil, a beta male, or moderately douchey.
James Carrick is a passionate film enthusiast with a degree in theater and philosophy. James approaches dramatic criticism from a philosophic foundation grounded in aesthetics and ethics, offering insight and analysis that reveals layers of cinematic narrative with a touch of irreverence and a dash of snark.