House of Darkness - Grimmfest International Premiere Review
Director: Neil LaBute
Starring: Justin Long, Kate Bosworth, Gia Crovatin, Lucy Walters
Written by: Neil LaBute
Produced by: Daryl Freimark, Tim Harms, Shaun Sanghani
Cinematography by: Daniel Katz
Original Score by: Adam Bosarge
Hap offers Mina a ride home with ulterior motives, but his night takes a turn when he learns she lives in a creepy American castle...and the shadowy figures in the corridors make it clear that he isn't welcome.
I had no idea what to expect from 'House of Darkness' before going in but after about fifteen minutes of watching and after contemplating the title of the film, I put two and two together and quickly realised what type of film I was actually watching. There isn't really a twist in 'House of Darkness' because the reveal isn't the mystery. It's about the journey not the destination.
Justin Long plays Hap, a genuinely normal guy who has met a beautiful blonde woman called Mina (Kate Bosworth) at a bar and has obliged in driving her home. Both have already had a few drinks and as Hap pulls his car up to Mina's house, the two converse flirtatiously and Mina eventually invites Hap inside.
Mina doesn't live in a house, she lives in a castle. Like, literally a castle in the middle of nowhere. The two continue their drinking inside the expansive gothic lounge, getting to know each other better, then one thing leads to another as Hap finally thinks he's going to get lucky. That is until Lucy (Gia Crovatin) intervenes. Lucy is Mina's sister who happens to be living in the castle also. At this point the female character names should really have given away the game to most of the people watching and the continuation of the film becomes more about when and how the reveal will happen and what Hap's reaction will be.
For those paying attention, Hap has walked aimlessly into the castle inherited by lustful and very hungry vampiric "brides". A trio in fact as Mina and Lucy have now been joined by yet another "sister" known as Nora. And it quickly becomes apparent that all three "sisters" have had enough of Hap...and men.
In the opening paragraph to this review I said that 'House of Darkness' is about the journey not the destination and the journey, while a bit slow and tedious at times is a relatively good watch, thanks mostly due to the performance of Justin Long. It's a very talky movie with little to nothing else going on. Lots of fidgety people might check out halfway through. Ninety-Five percent of the entire film is just Justin Long and Kate Bosworth exchanging dialogue and being flirty as fuck with each other. And this is definitely Hap's journey we're following. His character is secure without oozing confidence yet he is utterly clueless to what is going on right in front of his eyes and Long really delivers here. Maybe one of his best and most enjoyable performances to date. I absolutely loved watching him try to spiel his way out of the socially awkward situations that arise.
The girls are fantastic too. Gia Crovatin is steely with a vibrant conviction about her while Kate Bosworth is ethereal and hypnotic. Every head tilt and purse of her lips is transfixing. Lucy Walters doesn't get much screen time as Nora and her introduction is really only to signify the beginning of the end for Hap.
There's nothing overtly remarkable to talk about from a technical standpoint. The scenes are well shot and the lighting is nice however the direction isn't particularly memorable and the camerawork seems pretty standard stuff. The score isn't overpowering either which is a plus and there's a few great musical cues in there that might be influenced by some classics of the genre. Director Neil LaBute also wrote the screenplay, which isn't anything to write home about. It's basically a women-wants-revenge-on-men type of deal and the theme is spread quite thin at times with vague hints dotted here and there. It does feel like maybe some of the dialogue in a few scenes was improvised to a certain extent too. The film could definitely have benefitted from more of a build up of tension. The official synopsis teases the "shadowy figures" and noises. We should've had more of that.
'House of Darkness' might rub some people up the wrong way with its unsubtle transparency and lack of action or tension but the gorgeous, gothic set pieces (which I would've liked to have seen explored more) and strong performances help to make this darkly comic horror film a (sort of) thumbs up in my book.
- Gavin Logan
'House of Darkness' received its International Premiere at Grimmfest on October 7th