Thursday, September 8, 2022

A shot of horror from Neil LaBute

 Well, it's better than Out of the Blue, a recently released Neo-noir clinker.
 I’m referring to House of Darkness, the second movie from writer/director Neil LaBute to reach theaters within the last couple of weeks.
  LaBute's early triumph, In the Company of Men (1997), prompted many to accuse him of mining a strong vein of mysogyny. I didn't see the movie that way but LaBute's work usually paves the way for strong arguments.
  In House of Darkness, LaBute gives full vent to any desire he might have had to distribute a healthy comeuppance to insensitive men. 
  The result is a medium-grade horror film in which a libidinous but  shallow financial advisor (Justin Long) meets his match in the person of three sisters (well-played by Kate Bosworth, Gia Crovatin, and Lucy Waters). 
   The movie begins just after Long's Hap Jackson meets Bosworth's Mina Murray at a bar. Hap gives Mina a ride home, hoping the trip will lead to something more. He anticipates a conquest, so much so that he calls one his buddies to brag when Mina leaves him alone to prepare drinks.
    In this case, home happens to be a mansion surrounded by woods, a sure sign that Hap has as much chance of finding carnal bliss as one might have locating a Serena hater at the US Open — or anywhere else for that matter.
   For much of its 88-minute running time, House of Darkness plays like a creepy two-hander as Mina and Hap flirt, spar and try to out-maneuver each other. Mina, who initially seems like a push-over, quickly reveals a cunning side and we know that Hap -- poor Hap, if you will -- is in for it.
   But how much do we feel for hapless Hap? Not much, as it turns out.
   As played by Long, Hap varies his personality to fit whatever situation he confronts. He doesn’t inspire either high levels of identification or sympathy. 
   It's also clear -- thanks to a giveaway title -- that horror looms.
   To arrive at the movie's bloody conclusion, LaBute introduces a mythic fairy-tale element and pushes the story to gory extremes.
    More game-like than deep, House of Darkness keeps you watching. And say this: It's difficult to sustain interest when a movie creates little doubt about where it's headed. A strong cast -- hats off particularly to Crovatin -- creates enough tension to carry LaBute's revenge-driven effort to its inevitable finale.

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