Dull Revenge Horror Lives in the House of Darkness (2022)
Title: House of Darkness
First Non-Festival Release: September 9, 2022 (Limited Theatrical Release)
Director: Neil LaBute
Writer: Neil LaBute
Runtime: 88 Minutes
Starring: Justin Long, Kate Bosworth, Gia Crovatin
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Hap (Justin Long) is excited to close the deal when it comes to hooking up with Mina (Kate Bosworth), a beautiful yet mysterious woman he met at the bar. When they arrive at her mansion in the middle of the woods, their night continues but not exactly to what Hap is expecting. Once there, they engage in a long conversation which eventually reveals both of their true intentions for the night, and how one doesn’t intend to let the other live to see tomorrow.
Poor pacing and circuitous writing derail House of Darkness before the most obvious and anticlimactic finales of the year.
Uniquely written, House of Darkness focuses on building up to the seriousness behind its horror with middling results. The film acts as one giant conversation before it reveals all its cards. This works in some ways but not in others. For one, the element of suspense is always present, even if it is irritating to experience. The script is filled with little hints as to why the Murrays behave the way they do before they reveal their secrets to Hap. The unconventional use of a single conversation leads to some isolated moments of chilling dialogue despite its execution.
What kills House of Darkness the most is its terrible pacing. Very little action and variety in sequences means House of Darkness relies fully on its performers and script. The cast is great, but the script leaves much to be desired. Aside from one oddly placed dream sequence, the entirety of the film takes place in a few rooms and corridors of the manor. The movement is restricted to Hap’s conversations with his friend over the phone and each of the Murrays. The conversations cover interesting material but are otherwise laced with assumptions and insinuations from the cast. This leads to what is akin to cinematic edging, where the film builds to its finale only to come to the most obvious of conclusions.
Another entry in the #MeToo Horror movement, House of Darkness strips predators of their power. The entirety of the night plays out in the expectation that Hap is going to take advantage of Mina. The reversal of which plays out instead. While it builds to this conclusion, House of Darkness takes great pains to explain why Hap is deserving of this fate likening his exploits to that of those that have wronged one of Mina’s sisters in the past. Regardless of whether or not Hap deserves his fate, what is more interesting is the female solidarity that is promoted here. Throughout the night, it is clear that each of the Murrays look out for each other and work together to accomplish their goals. When viewing House of Darkness through this lens, it accomplishes more of its goal of being an emblematic #MeToo film than when solely focusing on Hap.
There are a few little victories to celebrate regarding the foray into rape culture in House of Darkness. Kate Bosworth and Justin Long give great performances in their respective roles which adds points in favor of the film. Bosworth leans into role well balancing the mysterious and cheeky perfectly. Her commitment to the bit allows the film to ride on her performance and hide its lower budget. Long has well established that he can carry the water as the douchey male lead and his performance as Hap in House of Darkness is no exception. Throughout the course of the film, Long adeptly breaks down the toolishness of Hap in a realistic yet digestible manner for the audience. Overall, House of Darkness is a well-produced film despite the literal darkness in lighting design that obscures it for most of its runtime.
While its execution could use some work, House of Darkness offers a distinct style of horror not often seen even in indie spaces. Contained to a few key locations in a restricted setting, this low budget horror makes use of its strong cast despite obvious setbacks in the script. Hampered by its languid pacing and circuitous writing, audiences will tune out long before it makes its point. Nevertheless, if you are looking for something off the beaten path, House of Darkness is just around the corner in a streamer near you.
Overall Score? 4.5/10