When a man courts a woman and persuades her to go out with him, he always thinks of being halfway to bliss, but the road will instead lead to a dead-end nightmare in the case of this 2022 movie, House of Darkness.
Indeed this story begins in the car of this man, Hap Jackson, who, after going out for drinks with his friends, meets the beautiful and mysterious Mina, who asks him for a ride home.
On the way, she excites him, foreshadowing that the night will end in an ecstatic sexual denouement.
Hap is even more ecstatic when they arrive at her house, an estate almost the size of a small castle in the middle of nowhere in the woods.
However, upon going inside, the man immediately seems to catch a glimpse of another woman in the darkness.
Mina immediately denies it, claiming she lives alone and that it is just one of her wealthy family’s many estates.
Back in intimacy, they sit in an elegant living room having a drink, with the woman having an attitude somewhere between seduction and a strange hostility toward her guest.
After the umpteenth drink, Hap dozes off for a few moments, having a horrifying nightmare where he is badly injured in the mansion’s basement.
Waking up, he discovers it was not a mistake when before he thought of having seen someone else since standing before him is Lucy, Mina’s sister who evidently was in the house all along.
She, too, has the same defiant and hostile attitude, almost as if she is aroused but also enraged at him for some mysterious event from the past.
Thus, the sisters begin to narrate a frightening fairy tale, while word after word, Hap realizes with horror that this is not fiction but pure reality.
The dangerous beauties of horror
From director Neil LaBute, I knew only one other movie before House of Darkness in 2022, The Wicker Man starring Nicolas Cage.
Unfortunately, the horror/psychological thriller formula was not particularly successful in that case, although it had a plot with several points in common with the one we are discussing today.
This time, first of all, the pace of the story works enormously better, being compressed only into the span of one long night of tension and perverse sexual excitement.
Reading several reviews and opinions online, critics seem more understanding than audiences, praising the director’s intentions even if not everyone appreciated the on-screen realization of his ideas.
In my opinion, however, the narrative and setting combine perfectly with the beautiful hosts and the naive stupidity of the main character, making up a simple and winning combo.
I will warn you right away this is a horror of suspense and anticipation, although, at the decisive moment, violence and blood also arrive suddenly and fiercely.
The plot slowly reveals one piece at a time, like a bizarre poker match where everyone plays for keeps.
Everyone knows the playbook except the poor protagonist with the friendly face of Justin Long, evidently accustomed to the role of ritual victim, as I also remember from Kevin Smith‘s terrific Tusk.
From the sisters’ tale, we understand how they have every reason to hate men, although in accomplishing what they plan to do, these women also become equally executioners and perpetrators.
It is hilarious the contrast between their archaic and allusive way of talking against the simple modern horny man silliness of the evening’s guest.
Certainly, this story requires patience on the part of the viewer, a virtue that is now sadly not in everyone’s skill set, without meaning to offend anyone.
No sexism, just intriguing flavorful cinema
Being a single-location movie, the few but fierce cast members’ talent makes the most difference in House of Darkness of 2022.
Justin Long plays the classic boy-next-door, seemingly decent and harmless, with a touch of annoying cowardice and lies.
However, without wishing to appear sexist, we must admit that the punishment here goes far beyond the character’s flaws.
This is precisely why the female protagonists seem to have become, over time (decades or centuries? we do not know), the embodiment of the same evil they seek to avenge.
First to appear on screen is the stunning Kate Bosworth, the classic woman every man would dream of taking away to end the evening.
Beautiful and impeccably elegant, yet we immediately see in her eyes hiding a disturbing madness.
In this sense, every word directed at Justin Long is at once a compliment, a sexual provocation hiding a serious insult and personal contempt.
Halfway through the story, the younger Gia Crovatin appears, whose attitude seems more open and welcoming. Still, everything changes drastically when she starts telling the terrible fable of the three avenging sisters.
As in the fable, finally comes the last sister, played by Lucy Walters, equally beautiful and even more ruthless and terrible than the other two women.
Unfortunately, in the frenzy of the climax, her character is unable to show her full potential, literally missing the time to get to know her better and leaving the feeling she could have offered so much more.
I noticed many of the comments from viewers most angry or disappointed with this movie were male, whose egos perhaps felt diminished by such helplessness of a man in front of a woman.