House of Darkness (2022) poster

House of Darkness (2022)


USA. 2022.


Director/Screenplay – Neil LaBute, Producers – Daryl Freimark & Tim Harms, Neil LaBute & Shaun Sangani, Photography – Daniel Katz, Music – Adam Borsage, Visual Effects – Novelty Hat (Supervisor – Michael Barnett), Special Effects Supervisor – Josh Turri, Production Design – Mitchell Crisp. Production Company – SSS Entertainment/Hardball Entertainment/Rockhill Studios/The Syndicate/SSS Film Capital/Contemptible Entertainment/Irving Harvey.


Justin Long (Hap Jackson), Kate Bosworth (Mina Murray), Gia Crovatin (Lucy Murray), Lucy Walters (Nora Murray)


Hap drives home Mina, a woman he has met at a downtown bar, only to find she lives in a castle and comes from great wealth. She invites him in for a drink. The conversation between the two of them dances around flirtation and whether they are going to spend the night together. Though she insists they are alone, Hap thinks he hears noises and begins to discover the house holds secrets.

Director/writer Neil LaBute came to attention in the late 1980s with his plays, produced while he was a student at Brigham Young University, which ended up being shut down for their controversy. LaBute expanded on to film with In the Company of Men (1997), based on his play, followed by Your Friends & Neighbors (1998), both of which were hard-hitting works about the misogyny of men and sexuality in the modern world. LaBute has circled to varying degrees around charged issues of modern sexuality and relationships in other films such as The Shape of Things (2003), Some Girl(s) (2013), Some Velvet Morning (2013), Dirty Weekend (2015) and Out of the Blue (2022). LaBute has made two other genre outings with the widely ridiculed remake of The Wicker Man (2006) and the thriller Lakeview Terrace (2008) with Samuel L. Jackson as a psycho cop terrorising a racially mixed couple, while he has also produced and written episodes for the tv series Van Helsing (2016-21).

The film’s title is an exceedingly generic one that has been used at least five other films, including the ghost story House of Darkness (1947). As you start watching, you could easily be mistaken for thinking it is a standard Neil LaBute film where he is throwing himself back in to tackling the war of the sexes. Justin Long – who went through not dissimilar things in Barbarian (2022) the same year – and Kate Bosworth return to her ‘castle’ after meeting in a bar. He is excited about the possibility of getting laid and at how wealthy she is. At the same time, he appears to be being deliberately ambiguous about his marital status.

As though this were another of LaBute’s plays, the film sets a single stage – where almost the entire film takes place in one room and concerns itself with only two characters for most of the film, although two others appear later in the show. LaBute likes to write dialogue where conversation is pared away in search of a brutally honest truth. Much of the early sections of the film are a dance of dialogue between Justin Long and Kate Bosworth where every word becomes a trap that is immediately turned around on the speaker.

Justin Long and Kate Bosworth in House of Darkness (2022)
Justin Long and Kate Bosworth

If you don’t want have anything about the film ruined for you, this is the point to stop reading. However, it is impossible to discuss House of Darkness without giving away its main twist [PLOT SPOILERS] – that it is a Vampire Film. On the other hand, it is not that big a surprise as I feel that LaBute gives the game away far too early in the game in naming characters Mina Murray and Lucy, the two principal female characters in Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897). The whole naming characters in vampire films after classic vampire works has become a rather passé trend since the late 1990s and seeing it trotted out here again is a mark against what is otherwise a decent film. The film would have preserved its surprise if LaBute had simply given the characters different names.

House of Darkness makes fascinating contrast to The Invitation (2022), which came out only a month earlier the same year. Both films take obscure characters from Dracula – Dracula’s three brides, who normally appear in only a single scene – and pump them up into full characters at the centre of the drama. Both films also place the characters at the purpose of a war of the sexes story. The Invitation placed its sympathies with one of the brides and had her rising up to literally burn down a corrupt patriarchal system. By contrast, House of Darkness construes the vampire brides as a force of vengeance come to enact a retribution on Justin Long’s character. The film is construed almost as being one of the typical misogynist characters in LaBute’s works coming into a crashing hard realisation of the #MeToo era and having a holy vengeance visited on him for his casually misogynistic ways.

Trailer here

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