Review: Horrors in bloody, contrived 'Dark House' go thud

There's plenty of blood in the supernatural horror flick "Dark House," but what really defines director Victor Salva's latest effort is flop sweat.

A haunted house, psychic powers, a father-son mystery, pregnancy terror, the South's history of lynching — Salva and co-writer Charles Agron reach for pretty much any contrivance that might send a fleeting shiver down audience members' spines with too little consideration for narrative cohesion or thematic nuance.

Upon his mother's death, clairvoyant Nick (Luke Kleintank) inherits an uncannily familiar house — the same one he used to sketch as a child. Nick, his 8-months-pregnant girlfriend Eve (Alex McKenna) and his best friend Ryan (Anthony Rey Perez) visit the property with a couple of surveyors (Ethan S. Smith and Zack Ward) to see what's left of the long-abandoned structure.

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They're met by a troop of ax-hurling squatters who warn Nick never to return, but he and his friends soon find themselves back at the house despite their best efforts to flee. Orchestrating Nick's spiritual homecoming is his deceased father, who has trapped many a soul in the dark corners of the house.

Salva manages a few inspired scenes, among them a sub-dermal exploration of an ax-cleaved head that involves peeling back a quarter of a face. But the lasting image "Dark House" offers is of the screenwriters hurling everything they can think of at the wall.

"Dark House." MPAA rating: Rated R for horror violence and language. Running time: 1 hour, 43 minutes. Playing at Laemmle's NoHo 7 in North Hollywood. Also available on VOD.


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