Virtually “House of Darkness” from the second it hit theaters, Neil LaBute’s 2006 remake of the 1973 British people’s horror traditional “The Wicker Man” has been largely dismissed as one of many worst motion pictures of our time, and of worth solely to those that make compilation clips of Nicolas Cage at his most unhinged. Positive, it is no masterpiece. However, I confess that I’ve all the time had a peculiar affection for the way it reveals LaBute exploring and at instances satirizing the popularity for misogyny he developed over the course of such corrosive explorations of male-female dynamics of “In the Company of Men,” “Your Friends and Neighbors,” and “The Shape of Things,” throughout the context of a style that additionally has its points alongside these traces.
Together with his newest movie, “House of Darkness,” LaBute tries one thing just like “The Wicker Man.” And whereas the outcomes will not be almost as outlandish this time round, they do make for an intriguing and sometimes fairly witty battle of the sexes, wherein not the entire bloodshed is strictly metaphorical.
When the movie opens, an automotive with a pair inside approaches a big home in the midst of nowhere. Hap (Justin Long) and Mina (Kate Bosworth) met earlier that evening in a bar within the metropolis, and since he is a “decent guy,” Hap has volunteered to drive Mina dwelling out of the alleged goodness of his coronary heart. However, it’s pretty apparent that he is hoping the night will finish with one thing greater than a pat on the top because it had been. Mina does invite him in nevertheless it’s shortly obvious that guys like Hap will not be unfamiliar to her; she has a method of twisting nearly every line of his smugly complacent patter on him, all the time leaving him on the defensive. And but, Hap is so assured of participant talents that he continues his ostensibly low-pressure pursuit. Even after the purpose of the place, she asks him if he is married, and he stumbles over the reply as badly as doable.
Between the drinks already in his system (which didn’t cease him from driving her dwelling), the glass of Maker’s Mark in his hand, and the concentration on getting Mina into the mattress, it doesn’t fairly register to Hap that the state of affairs he is in is even stranger that it seems. For starters, the home—one in all a number that Mina claims her household owns—is actually a fortress that virtually oozes Gothic ambiance wherever one turns. There’s additionally the truth that, regardless of Mina’s insistence they’re alone, there are additionally noises and actions that recommend that somebody (or one thing …) else is lurking within the darkness brought on by the defective electrical energy. That is partially defined by the sudden look of Lucy (Gia Crovatin), Mina’s sister, however odd issues proceed to occur as the evening goes on. Not that Hap notices—at one level, he makes a sort-of move at Lucy whereas Mina is away for a couple of minutes regardless that many horndogs—not less than these with a literary bent—might need to be picked up on the trace prompt by their respective names and not less than tried to flee the premises.
There’s a twist within the closing act however LaBute’s screenplay doesn’t actually construct it in a standard method, and most viewers could have figured it out nicely earlier than the half-hour mark. In a method, it serves as a kind of companion piece to his earlier characteristic, final month’s neo-noir “Out of the Blue,” in how that story performs with style conventions by all however asserting the arrival of an enormous twist after which intentionally stretches out the time till he lastly deploys it within the anticipated method. In “Out of the Blue,” the self-esteem does not work as a result of it is frankly unimaginable to consider the principal character didn’t see what was in retail for him regardless that he professed to be educated within the trappings of noir storytelling. However, the gambit works this time round, as Hap is so basically clueless to what is going on that he doesn’t even acknowledge the type of story that he is actually in till it is actually respiratory down his neck (so to talk), inspiring some darkly humorous moments.
Though the movie’s primary premise—a “nice guy” will get the tables turned on him by a lady with some secrets and techniques of her personal—might remind among the absurdly overpraised “Promising Young Woman,” these conversant in LaBute’s filmography might discover it really works even higher as an inverted tackle “In the Company of Men.” That movie, you’ll recall, handled two businessmen who instigated a merciless competitor of seducing essentially the most susceptible girl they might discover and destroying her only for kicks. The dynamic would be identical right here nevertheless it’s fascinating how the story is informed from the attitude of the sport’s potential sufferer; LaBute not solely refuses to sympathize with him however appears to take particular enjoyment of twisting issues even tighter for his hapless hero every time doable.
After all, a cinematic chamber play with solely “unlikable” characters, and a key plot growth that is not precisely a shock, is probably not the type of movie that may seize most audiences. And but, for these not instantly delay by such issues, “House of Darkness” has a lot of pleasures, such because the performances from its 4 principal actors (together with Lucy Walters in a task I depart so that you can uncover), LaBute’s aptitude for dialogue, and the genuinely foreboding ambiance that LaBute generates regardless of presumably pretty low funds. The movie might not restore LaBute to the standing of cinematic provocateur he loved earlier than the failure of “The Wicker Man.” However “House of Darkness” does display that he nonetheless has some fascinating issues to say, and a few very fascinating methods wherein to say them.