House of Darkness review – Neil LaBute’s creepy-mansion revenge horror goes nowhere

LaBute’s quarter-baked script tries but fails to satirise male attitudes, letting down his actors Justin Long and Kate Bosworth

Writer-director Neil LaBute has created some genuinely challenging work for cinema and theatre, including the 90s toxic-masculinity classic In the Company of Men. But he takes his eye off the ball sometimes, and in this film the ball is so far outside LaBute’s eyeline, he might as well be outside the stadium trying to remember where he parked the car.

House of Darkness is a tedious quarter-baked straight-to-video revenge horror set-up that is sort of – but not really – satirising male attitudes. Justin Long plays Hap, a guy who has just picked up Mina (Kate Bosworth), a young woman in a bar, assuring her that he is “separated” from his wife. This demure, white-clad young siren asks Hap to drive her home, which turns out to be a weird Castle Dracula mansion in the middle of nowhere. She asks him in to this creepy old-timey place and while she is gone in the kitchen fixing them both drinks, Hap can’t help gloating on the mobile to his friend about how he’s almost certain to score. With a sweet smile, Mina returns with the drinks giving no hint that she heard his ungallant comments. And after what feels like hours and hours and hours of tensely cutesy conversation and directionless non-action, the grisly main event finally kicks off.

This feels like something LaBute wrote in an afternoon on the notes app on his smartphone while thinking about something else. It doesn’t even really have a plot or narrative development. Even the introduction of new characters doesn’t advance the action or make things interesting. It’s just set-up – and punchline. Then credits. This really is just streaming content to be sludged through your laptop or tablet. Long will always have a place in everyone’s heart because of his appearance in Galaxy Quest and Dodgeball, but this doesn’t suit him (or Bosworth) one bit.

• House of Darkness is released on 10 October on digital platforms.

Contributor

Peter Bradshaw

The GuardianTramp

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