house of darkness2022.
Written and directed by Neil LaBute.
Starring Justin Long, Kate Bosworth, Gia Crovatin and Lucy Walters.
Driving back to his secluded estate after meeting at a local bar, a player looking to score thinks his beautiful, mysterious date will be another casual hookup. As they get to know each other, their flirtation turns playful, sexy, and sinister. Hoping to get lucky, your luck may have run out.
In house of darkness (Neil LaBute’s second movie this month and a much more entertaining slice of seedy camping than the recent Unexpectedly), Justin Long’s macho Hap is 37 steps behind the audience, and Mena (a mysterious and ethereal Kate Bosworth), which is precisely why this genre play is a diabolical explosion. Hap, clueless, believes that he is successfully seducing Mena when he is actually psychologically toying with him for her and our amusement.
Starting the story after a night of drinking in which these two become friends (but not before an ominous “Once Upon a Time” graphic appears on the screen), the buzzing Hap has brought Mena back home. . Now this abode turns out to be gothic in the middle of nowhere that would give any reasonable person the creeps, but Hap is too busy thinking about his dick to run, especially since Mena insists she come in for a chat. .
Hap also obeys in part because Mena doesn’t look like other hip girls or guys who populate his office space, which is really just code for him harboring an active disdain for movements like Me Too, feminism, and pop culture. the cancellation (there is a scene where the story is being told in which some men turn lives upside down and give off a priceless reactionary wail as soon as it is implied that they are the villains of the story). There’s no mask or second guess that Hap is a creep looking to take sexual advantage of a drunken woman, but that doesn’t stop him from thinking he’s cunning and desirable and his actions are okay.
Admittedly, this type of character is an easy fruit to outwit, but Justin Long inhabits the role with slimy hilarity. When Mena investigates a power outage (another occurrence that would make any rational-thinking person try to leave), Hap answers a phone call from a seemingly equally misogynistic friend and brags about the beauty of this woman (adorned in a white dress that, while he is fit, feels out of place in contemporary times and as if something else is going on), her potential for sex, and rudely displays her willingness to take pictures to share with him.
However, it’s impossible to believe that Hap has the upper hand for a second, as he’s clearly being tricked by something dangerous. The banter between Hap and Mena paints the latter as more intelligent while also distinguishing the former’s personality. There’s an oddly funny tone to it all house of darkness, in which Mena makes suggestive statements about Hap while giving him enough false hope that the night will end in sexual pleasure. Simultaneously, Mena also gives Hap enough rope to hang himself, effectively digging his own grave (performed metaphorically in a visually compelling sequence).
There are some creative decisions that seem to prolong the inevitable rather than provide something substantial, like the appearance of another sister. The proper joke here is that Hap thinks her night will double down on eroticism by stumbling upon an incestuous threesome, but the one-on-one dialogue is lacking here compared to the mind games Mena is playing. Neil LaBute is also smart enough to take these conversations to different areas of the mansion for some refreshing backstory, and for the most part, the setting is pretty unsettling.
One might wonder what’s the point of seeing house of darkness it could be if the story and narrative trajectory are apparent from the start, so you can be sure there are some fun surprises (which succinctly sum up the motivations of these sisters). More importantly, the payoff is incredibly satisfying and doesn’t stop there in terms of blood. Justin Long and Kate Bosworth also pull off their roles, making sure the ride is twisted and fun.
Flashing Myth Rating – Movie: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the reviews editor for Flickering Myth. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at [email protected]