“You can check out anytime you like. But you can never leave.” lyrics we’ve all heard a million times. In the case of DARK HOUSE it’s not the Hotel California but an abandoned house in Idaho that’s made the cast prisoners of their own device. And in writer/director Sheffield Leithart’s debut film that device is their own fears.
Paul (Justin Spencer) is a real estate broker with multiple problems hanging over his head. All he wants is to check out a new property and make a quick sale to raise some badly needed cash. But when he does his walkthrough of the house he finds Christine (Brittany Kragerud), a squatter who claims she can’t leave the house. It won’t let her. When he tries to show her just how easy leaving is he finds that he’s trapped too.
As the night wears on they’re forced to confront apparitions and hallucinations connected to their lives and the choices they’ve made. Can they face their fears and find a way to escape, or are they trapped in their own private purgatory?
As you can tell from the summary DARK HOUSE is basically a two person film. And a very talky one, especially at an hour and forty-five minutes. This could have worked as a short, but dragged out to this length it gets fairly tedious. Especially as there’s nothing majorly shocking in their pasts, at least not by the standards of films like this.
Leithart’s only other credit is as an editor on UNSTOPPABLE, one of Kirk Cameron’s “faith-based” screeds. That lack of experience would explain a lot of the problems with this film. Bad pacing, too much padding and dialogue that goes on too long while saying nothing of value. There are at least fifteen minutes of filler that could be cut and make the film flow better.
And if he’s from the same religious mould as Cameron, that would explain a lot of the film’s attitudes. DARK HOUSE often seems very judgmental of its characters, something I found annoying. Granted it’s not as preachy as THE SHELTER, but it’s still not what I want from a haunted house film. For an example of this kind of film done right, hunt up a copy of COOKERS.
Despite a few atmospheric scenes DARK HOUSE is a boring mess. It would be more entertaining to stare at a dark screen.