Man, release dates are a total B-word. I mean, who would’ve thought there would be two retellings of a very famous, very prolific creature of the night coming out in the same year, let alone the same month, let alone doing the exact same kind of deal. But here we are. I guess the bright side (which is a horrible way to say it) is no one is seeing that wider release movie of the exact same nature really, so House of Darkness might be a new take on the genre that you haven’t seen yet (hopefully). And guess what. It is so much better than I honestly could’ve ever predicted.
Neil LaBute, who wrote, most famously, Nicolas Cage’s Wicker Man adaptation (THE BEEEEEEEEEEES), is back in bringing forth his style and structure to one of the most famous blood-sucking creatures known to man, vampires. And no, not the sparkling spider-monkey kind. The blood-sucking, seducing, and genuinely terrifying kind. There is so much chaotic energy that is communicated subtly throughout this brilliantly tight 88 minutes, and it is all highlighted by its often-overlooked cast. LaBute creates a fun, witty, and fun little tidbits of information for fans of the Bram Stoker’s Dracula and vampires themselves, and it truly delivers on all fronts.
Hap (Justin Long) just had what he would describe as an incredible date with Mina (Kate Bosworth) and offers to drive her home to get more acquainted. While getting to know each other on a more intimate level, one thing leads to another, and when Hap thinks he’s getting to round second base, Lucy (Gia Crovatin) introduces herself from afar. And that is just when Hap realizes maybe everything he signed up for tonight is a little more than he initially expected. Hap is so focused on getting lucky however, that nothing really seems to deter him from exacting his goal, even when Mina jokingly tells him she’s a vampire, you know something a normal person would be like yeah, maybe I’m out of here, but Hap just continues to try and achieve what he has set himself out to achieve. As things escalate, Hap starts to casually admit to himself that he may have ignored one too many red flags and is now starting to be aware of his situation, however it may just be too late for him to escape his fate.
In a movie that spends its first almost 30 minutes solely between two characters in one setting, chemistry is the most important thing next to a script that works. Thankfully, the chemistry that is shared between Justin Long and Kate Bosworth is palpable and is completely believable. The only unbelievable part is that the character of Mina seems like this down-to-Earth, genuinely sweet woman, while the character of Hap is so obviously a player. So why would a knockout want to spend her time with someone who’s just looking for a one-night stand? However, that makes itself clear rather early on, with some tidbits to figure out the larger picture, even with a rather obvious line here and there about the true intentions of this interaction. Since most of the movie focuses on the two leads, the addition of Gia Crovatin as Lucy is simply there to not just place red herrings throughout the film, but to pay due respect to the astute viewer who is inclined to figure out the larger, unexplained, but heavily hinted at, picture by the choice of certain character names.
ake no mistake, Neil LaBute has not gone anywhere as his last released feature was just shortly before COVID, but this is some of his most fun and inspired work, in my personal opinion. His ability to craft a romance comedy with the twist of the undead and bring it together with two rather overlooked working actors is a feat impressive on its own. There truly is something for everyone here as the horror barely scratches the surface for those who object to the genre in of itself, and the gore is almost all but absent throughout. It truly is an ample and delightful movie that swings for the fences and knocks it right out of the park with just endless joy emitting from House of Darkness. So, strap yourself in for one hell of a ride.
In theaters September 9th, 2022.
Available on VOD and digital September 13th, 2022.
Final Score: 4 out of 5.