Based on Lois Duncan’s gothic young adult novel, “Down a Dark Hall” is entry-level horror for teens. The scares might not satisfy those old enough to vote, but it should provide mild chills for its target audience.
All eye rolls and exasperated sighs, rebellious teen Kit (AnnaSophia Robb) has left her mother (Kirsty Mitchell) and stepdad (Jim Sturgeon) few options for controlling her. They send her to Blackwood, a remote boarding school lorded over by Madame Duret (Uma Thurman).
There, Kit is joined by only four other girls (Isabelle Fuhrman, Victoria Moroles, Taylor Russell and Rosie Day), and they each begin to exhibit strange gifts after their arrival. There’s also an off-limits wing (of course, there is), and Kit begins to see something lurking in the old building’s dark corners.
Patchy accents aside, the strong cast elevates a so-so script from Chris Sparling and Mike Goldbach. Updated from Duncan’s 1974 novel, a character has been added, but her role feels grafted on compared to her fellow students. Cinematography from Jarin Blaschke is overly murky, unnecessarily obscuring some of the terrors. Director-editor Rodrigo Cortés nevertheless manages to establish the film’s moody experience, with particular help from the pounding, percussive score from Víctor Reyes that moves the action forward.
‘Down a Dark Hall’
Rated: PG-13, for mature thematic content, terror and violence, some language including a sexual reference, and smoking
Running time: 1 hour, 36 minutes