House of Darkness Review

With September comes the nearing fall season and foliage, and with that, Halloween. Halloween brings a new crop of horror movies and television shows, streaming or otherwise. House of Darkness is one such film. It’s writer/director Neil LaBute’s contribution to the horror genre this Halloween season, and it’s not what you’d expect, especially from the title.

Hap (Justin Long, Tusk) meets a woman in a bar named Mina (Kate Bosworth, Straw Dogs). The two hit it off, and Hap agrees to give Mina a ride home when she is ready to go. Once they get there, she asks him to come in and have a few drinks with her, and whatever transpires after that is up to them. So he agrees to come in and notices that she lives in a huge mansion. He gets more than expected from this encounter. 

This film isn’t like a lot of other horror films. It’s a two-hander for about forty-five minutes of the ninety-minute runtime. Eventually, other characters come into the picture. One of them is a significant character in the story. The other isn’t of much consequence. So the film becomes a three-hander until the end. The relationship between these three, mostly two-at-a-time characters, is very interesting. They have playful banter and or some sexual tension between them. Drinking doesn’t hurt the situation either.

LaBute has already directed another film this year called Out of the Blue. He’s making a mark for himself this year with his style and writing ability. The first film, Out of the Blue, had more characters and a more expansive story to tell. This one is more intimate and character-driven. The dialogue has to speak for itself, and it does just that. The playful banter is like an hors d’œuvre for the main course at the film’s end. Both films are different in that way but equally entertaining to watch.

I’ll admit I’m not much of a fan of Justin Long. He tends to get on my nerves when I see him in films and television shows. This time out, he didn’t. In fact, I actually related to him a bit in this situation. And his snarky humor and repartee didn’t bother me. Maybe it was because of the script by LaBute. He finds a way to make his characters engaging to the viewer watching them. Long was good in this part which is a departure for him. 

This film was set in one location most of the time, and that wasn’t easy to work with because the dialogue and few characters made it difficult to keep the scenes effective. Somehow LaBute and company do it, though. As the film’s viewer, I was locked into every word, facial tic, and inclination the characters made. It is real professionalism at its best with a movie of this style and nature. This is how you make a small-budget indie film.

LaBute is two for two this year for me. One is a more expansive mystery thriller, and the other, House of Darkness, is a more intimate dialogue-driven horror flick. He uses his locations to perfection, moving the characters and cameras around not to make the rooms too claustrophobic but still using them to their best. The acting was good from Bosworth and others, but Long was a pleasant surprise for once in his career. He gave a good performance. This is how to do a small indie film and make it very interesting and intriguing from beginning to end.

3 1/2 stars

Dan Skip Allen

Sean Boelman Founder/EIC disappointment media

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