Review: ‘House of Darkness’ Brings an Ominous, Seductive Twist to a Classic Tale
Woman in peril? She doesn't live in this fancy estate.
Sick of horror movies whose plot centers on a woman in peril? You won’t find one here. I love movies like It Follows (2014) and Revenge (2017), where women are able to take back power. But it’s also nice to see a movie where women aren’t suffering the entire time. Neil LaBute (writer and director) decided not to be a cliché and twisted the classic trope of a woman going home with a man. This time, it’s not about the woman being in danger, it’s about a man in danger. You know Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Well, this a new take on that horror tale, baby, and that means we’re all in for a world of seduction. And fright, of course, because duh.
House of Darkness (2022) follows a douchebag (sorry, not sorry) named Hap Jackson (Justin Long) who drives the stunning and mysterious Mina (Kate Bosworth) back to her gothic estate. Hap has it in his head that he’s going to get some. But this easy, one-night stand isn’t going to be easy at all. It’s all a game, and Hap just happens to be playing it as soon as he steps inside.
Naturally, as this is a modern take on Dracula, there’s style in spades in this adaptation. Mina’s estate is ominous and sexy. And the blend of eroticism with gigantic, menacing red flags (which Hap doesn’t quite see because he has other things, like getting in Mina’s pants, on his mind), is perfect for Dracula, a story that’s always been steeped in sexuality. House of Darkness questions what happens when the power dynamic is off in a sexual encounter. As the movie carries on, and Mina becomes increasingly sinister, Hap is forced to confront his lack of power and control—something he isn’t used to as a straight, white man. Mina doesn’t play fairly, and Hap is in trouble, but with the character as unlikable as he is, it becomes harder and harder to care about Hap’s safety.
The horror is subtle in House of Darkness—which favors dread and unease over a blood-soaked thrill ride with nudity. There’s horror in Hap’s, and later, Mina’s, lack of respect for consent and honesty— though, for Hap, it’s in the form of the subtly insidious way “nice” guys push past boundaries or lie to get what they want. Hap doesn’t try to assault Mina, he simply hints and pushes until it becomes uncomfortable. He believes himself to be charming, but in this film, it’s clear that this particular brand of assertiveness isn’t charming at all.
House of Darkness (2022) asks you to think about the role reversal with Hap and Mina. While he thinks that he’s got her in his hands, she’s the one playing with him the whole movie. But unlike the horror movies that have us rooting for the final girl, we, instead, are left to root for the supposed monster(s). It’s nearly impossible not to be drawn in by Kate Bosworth’s sultry movements and intense performance as Mina—and it deserves a classic slow clap. If some of us weren’t well versed in horror, we’d probably fall for charms as well.
You can watch House of Darkness in theaters on September 5th or on demand/digital on September 13th.
(featured image: Saban Films)
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