Dark House is the 2014 horror film about a young man trying to piece together a strange life. Nick (Luke Kleintank) has the ability
to see how a person will die if he touches them. This ability is not always there, but it is if that person will suffer a gruesome death. To avoid constant visions (and the convulsions that come with them), Nick wears gloves most of the time.
The film opens with Nick visiting his mother on his 23rd birthday. She has been in an insane asylum for years and claims to not know who Nick’s father is. She surprisingly clues him in that she does know during this visit, and Nick grabs her and envisions her dying in a huge fire. She tells him of mysterious “people in the walls”. After leaving, he goes to “celebrate” his birthday with his friends at a bar.
It is here that he meets Eve (Alex McKenna). Eve has had enough with her boyfriend, and Nick strikes up a conversation with her. She joins the group for the birthday celebration, and Nick (drunk) decides to show off his power. His friends laugh at it until Nick has a vision about one of them dying at war. He also (awkwardly) describes the “rules” of his power. Eve is intrigued by Nick.
Meanwhile, Nick’s mother begins talking to a voice in the heating duct of her room. The voice tells her that it is done with her, and flames burn her alive. Nick is called to a lawyer’s office a few months later for a reading of the will. He is handed a deed to a house, and recognizes it immediately: He had been drawing this house his entire life!
Nick, Eve, and their friend Ryan (Anthony Rey Perez) head out to River’s End, a small town where the house is located (The house is not listed with an address in any of the paperwork.). After stopping at a cafe, they see a picture of the house hanging inside. The locals refer to it as “Wormwood”, and say that it washed away 23 years ago (The number 23, if you haven’t noticed, plays a big role in this film.).
The group continues on in their journey, and ends up finding the house. They meet up with a group of surveyors that help them, and find a strange man named Seth (Tobin Bell, Jigsaw from Saw) living inside it. After taking Nick inside, he tells him to leave and never come back. Strange long haired men carrying axes appear around the rest of the group outside. After Seth chases Nick outside, the ax men begin running like gorillas after the group. Their axes are heavy (They drag them on the ground.), but the ax men toss them with ease at will.
While Dark House seems like an action packed film, it’s actually quite a slow burn picture. The deaths are few and far between, and if Nick didn’t have his visions, there would be 2 deaths total at a little past the halfway mark. Even as the conclusion approaches, we are limited as the group size is small. There is a big battle that raises the body count, but it’s fast and most of the action takes place off screen.
The ax men are forboding, comical creatures (reminding me of Rob Zombie’s Michael Myers without the mask). If they aren’t moving, they’re scary as hell. They can take a beating (or, at least, they can be run over by a car without pain), and they can launch their axes from a good distance with great accuracy. I started to wonder if the script called for over-sized axes for these demons as they drug them on the ground instead of carrying them. However, when they ran, the only thing I could think of was the nineties film Congo. They moved like gorillas, and while unnatural, it wasn’t scary. They have a great scene at the end, however, and that unnatural running position makes that scene pretty awesome.
The acting was decent in the film, but it plays slow. It also feels like a combination of a million other movies. While not a bad movie, both of these factors make it seem more generic than it is. I didn’t like the number infatuation in The Number 23, but it works better here. The film does pull off some great twists and turns at the end, but these aren’t enough to erase the first two acts’ inability to really engage the viewer.
Dark House is worth a watch, and the final act is great. The ax men are hit and miss for me, but there are other very good concepts investigated here. All in all, the first act feels like an episode of X-Files, the second rehashes scenes from other films, and the third feels like a smaller scale Legion.