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June 18, 2021

Dark House (2014) Movie Review

If you can believe it, sometimes I’m more leery of modern horror than ‘vintage’. I know, unheard of, right? But every now and again, I like to live dangerously. Sometimes it pays off, sometimes not. In this case…um, yes?

(WARNING: I do spoil movies because I have no self-control. So if you haven’t seen this, stop reading, go watch the movie, then come back.)

Dark House is about Nick DiSanto. When he was eight years old, his mother committed herself to an asylum. The main reason is because when Nick touches people, he can see their death. Not just a regular death, though. It has to be something sooper bad, like being chopped up by an axe murder or something. I guess that was a little stressful on mom.

And now, here we are, on Nick’s 23rd birthday, and he gets a call from the asylum. In all these years, his mother has never wanted to see him – or anyone, for that matter – but today she specifically requested a visit from her long-abandoned son. Naturally, she’s a bit scared to look at him (guilt, fear, take your pick) but once she makes that connection, she tells Nick that his father isn’t dead; yes, I’ve known who he is all along; he’s coming for you.

Nick’s a bit pissed, as you might imagine, and grabs her, demanding the truth. He sees her horrible death – she’s on fire – before her warning turns into babbling and Nick just wants the fuck out. His roommate is waiting outside the asylum so they can go party and drink and celebrate Nick’s birthday. Nick wants to drink away his problems anyway, so let’s go.

He meets Eve, who will soon become his best gal. When he touches her, he doesn’t have the violent visions of death. Well, that’s convenient. So they hang out, talk about life, the crazy coincidences with the number 23 (gee, I wonder if that’s going to come back at all…), deal with some assholes who want to really know if Nick can see their deaths, blah blah. Commence the lovey-dovies, she gets pregnant, and they’re happy. UNTIL…

We get a quick scene with mom as she talks to the voice in her vent. Yeah, she’s crazy. The voice is angry, though, because she didn’t give Nick the 4-1-1 on HIM (the voice) so he (the voice) sets mom on fire, which in turn, burns the whole asylum down. Eight months later, Nick gets a call from a judge about his mother’s will. Nick didn’t even know she had one, but he discovers that she had the deed to a house that is now his. But the weirdest part (aside from the judge talking to the voice in his vent after Nick leaves) is that Nick has been drawing a particular house his whole life, thinking it was just something he imagined. Turns out the house he now owns is the house from his imagination – or memory. It MUST have a clue about his dad.

Now Nick, Eve (eight months pregnant, btdubs), and roomie, Ryan, head out to find this house in the backwater town of Rivers End. That house he’s searching for is a bit of a local legend. It’s known as Wormwood and was washed away in the Black Water Flood 23 years ago (hey, 23 again…). With the help of some rando land surveyors, Kris, Sam, and Lilith, they actually find the house intact.

Yes, that’s impossible but nevertheless, here we are.

Not only is the house still intact, but a man, Seth, has been there for years, “working” on it. So get the fuck out. Though he lets Nick come in for a bit, explaining that God brought the flood to get rid of this house and Seth’s been trying to tear it down ever since. Then he tosses Nick out and says never return. Cue the three creepy loping guys carrying hatchets that chase everyone off the property. Unfortunately, Sam is killed, Kris is nearly killed, and Lilith is being all weird with Eve.


This is when things start taking a sideways path, folks.

The group goes back to town for help but it’s completely empty. At least, it LOOKS empty to them, even though the place is bustling with activity. Only one person can actually see the group as they’re searching for aid, Lucky, one of the townsfolk that goes AND TALKS TO A VOICE IN A FUCKING VENT.

Next thing we know, the group is back at the house, even though they drove 30 miles away from it. They’ve got to take shelter inside for the night and then figure out what to do in the morning. Seth and the Lopers are outside watching the house but he instructs them to stay put. They’ll know when to go back inside.

Wait, what?

Nick dreams about a hidden door in the house, as well as his mom in the vent who tells Nick she’s trapped, just like his father. He needs to release them both – go open the cellar! And yep, when he wakes up, he goes in search of that door. Chris seems awfully helpful about getting that door open, too. Each time they open it though, the Lopers come to life and charge the house. But once they close the door, the Lopers just stand still. So the group weaves their way through them, hoping to go find their car, and GTFO.

Unfortunately, they get separated. Nick and Ryan find Sam’s body and discover he’s not quite…human. Lilith and Eve find the car and hide, but Lilith ain’t so human either. Luckily, Seth shows up and kills Lilith because she was going to EAT EVE’S BABY.

And now we finally find out what the hell is going on – literally. Lilith, Sammael (Sam), and Kristoff (Kris) are all demons of hell. Their purpose was to destroy the baby, get Nick into the house to open the cellar, and invite his dad (which we assume is Satan) into the living realm. But it could only be done by Satan’s human son during his 23rd year of life (there’s that pesky 23 again). Seth has been trying to destroy the house since the flood. The Lopers are actually God’s Gargoyles (that’s what Kristoff calls them) and working for Seth.

Kris and Nick meet up and, yep, Nick ends up in the house and…Eve and Ryan find him covered in blood with an axe sticking out of his back. Oh don’t worry, he’s still alive. The other two try to convince him to leave, but Nick’s mad that everyone tried to stop him, and his dad. Little tussle ensues and Eve wakes up in the hospital, after having given birth to a son. Seth saved her ass and told her it’s time for her to forget Nick and move on.

Four years later, Eve’s son is at the kitchen table, drawing the same house Nick drew his whole life, while listening to a voice COMING OUT OF THE FUCKING VENT.

Nope, nope, nope, fucking nope. 

Lots to unpack here…

Look, this story is nothing new. It’s not particularly original or inventive or groundbreaking. Throughout my notes, I called a lot of the big twists or reveals because, as a horror lover, I’ve seen and read this trope dozens of times. The hints scattered throughout the movie are giant sourdough loaves. But that doesn’t make the movie less enjoyable.

The main characters are believable and grounded in reality, as much as they can be in a ‘bring Satan to the world’ film. Even the minor characters, no matter how short their screen time, are necessary pieces of the overall puzzle and I can’t imagine how the story would have worked without them.

The acting is fantastic. Tobin Bell plays Seth and he’s probably the most likeable, even when you don’t know his true purpose until later. He has great presence on screen, a perfect choice for Seth. Lacy Anzelc played Lilith and from the get-go, she’s ‘off’, you know? She played the demon with such subtlety. You didn’t know why she got under your skin; she just did. Ethan S. Smith as Samael came off as this meek, bumbling dork but in reality, Samael is an assassin for Hell, so he needed to cover up his true purpose. Zach Ward as Kristoff was the demon that can create illusions – like the empty town, driving in circles, etc. So all their confusion was his doing. How cool is that? Also, I adore Zach Ward.

The music was great through the whole movie. It was used particularly well for building tension. There were a few times the pacing lagged, but the music helped bring it back on track. Editing, cinematography, production, direction, makeup, set design, and wardrobe were all great. I loved the look of the Gargoyles. We never got to see their faces and the way they loped through their attack scenes was so creepy. They were one of my favorite things in the film. Them and the 1950s Cadillac that Ryan drove.

With all the good, there has to be some bad. Like I said before, the story is a well-known trope. The devil has a son and needs him to bring hell on earth is not new. So, for me, it was easy to figure out what was going on relatively early. And I never know what the fuck is happening in movies so when I can figure it out, that’s bad.

A lot of elements in the storytelling were OBVIOUSLY used as double meanings or foreshadowing. Even some of the simple names and terms were elbow nudges to the testicles about what was going on. The whole bar scene discussion about the number 23; calling the house Wormwood; Lilith’s name; etc. Now maybe, if you’re not that familiar with the Bible or Christianity or the tv show, Supernatural, none of this would trigger any bells for you. But I am – I attended catholic school for eleven, and four of Lutheran college. I was named after a nun, for crying out loud. Lots of predictability here.

While the rest of production was great, the sound was terrible. And the worst kind of terrible: quiet dialogue and EAR BLEEDING DECIBLES FOR THE SOUND EFFECTS. I can forgive a lot of stuff in films if I’m entertained and not checking my watch all the time, but not crap audio balance.

Also, I was checking my watch from time to time. The pacing is uneven and the story drags in several places.

I have to say, overall, that this is an enjoyable film. Despite its flaws, the good outweighs a lot of the bad. I almost want to go back and watch again just to see if there are any other clues I may have missed (doubtful, but I’m not perfect).

2.5 hatchets (out of 5)


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