The camera pans over dolls. All sorts of children's playthings. Child's music plays in the background. Credits slowly appear and disappear. Then a scream, a splash of blood, and a distinct change in mood. The camera continues to pan around the dolls. Instead of innocent playthings, we see inanimate victims to a tragedy splattered with blood. Instead of music we hear screams. Innocence is lost. I cannot wait to see what happens next. That is how Dark House welcomes us to its world.
A couple of young girls, can't be any more than 7 or 8 years old, stand at the closed gate in front of a big old house. You know the house; everybody knows the house. It is that one house in every neighborhood that everyone is scared of. These girls call this the scariest house and bet that no one would go inside. One of them, Claire, says she isn't scared and proceeds to open the gate and walk up to the door.
Before she turns the knob she hears noises inside. She proceeds inside; what she finds is a horrific scene of dead children (the scary house was actually an orphanage). In the kitchen stands the house mother, Miss Darrode, crying/screaming with her hands in the garbage disposal. Claire screams, falls over backwards, and ages 14 years right before our eyes.
That is only the first moments of this low-budget horror from director Darin Scott (Caught Up). Dark House is a gory haunted house story that wants to play up a psychological angle but gets caught in between. The script does not reach nearly as high as its conviction and the low-budget nature almost dictates a need for a decent amount of blood.
The story follows Claire, who never got over that day in the Darrode house. Her memories have been blocked and she has been told she must go back to face her fears, unlock the memories, and move forward with her life. This idea reminded me of the tree on Dagobah that Luke must confront in The Empire Strikes Back.
Claire is an acting student and while in class the group (comprised of the standard stereotypes: cute blond, goth girl, jock, wise ass, smart guy) is interrupted by a horror entrepreneur named Walston (the great Jeffrey Combs). He is looking for students to staff his new attraction set, where else, in the Darrode house. Claire sees an opportunity and they all find themselves with jobs.