Dark House, also known as the far more generic and anonymous Haunted, is a strong return to genre form for Victor Salva. He has an ability to avoid genre cliches and come up with original monsters and way out set-ups. This is certainly something that is at play in Dark House. There is a captivating scene soon in where Luke Kleintank chats up Alex McKenna at a bar, where it is then explained to her that he has the power to see peoples deaths to demonstrate, he passes around the table touching everybodys hands, only to abruptly collapse across the table having precognitive flashes.
This segues off into the fascinating tale of the search for Luke Kleintanks inherited house and the trail of an entire town that was washed away in a flood only for them to journey through the woods to find the house sitting there perfectly intact. We are then introduced to Tobin Bell as the tenant, who seems to have stepped out of somewhere between the Old Testament and the Deep South, and threatens them away. Things become even stranger when he invites Luke Kleintank inside and talks about how the house wasnt washed away so much as it was a divine effort to destroy it, followed by fierce warnings for Kleintank to get as far away as possible. Things get into wildly out there territory as the group flee the house pursued by a dreadlocked man who walks in a side-shuffle and attacks their van with an axe. By this point, Salva has spun us around into a genuinely out there territory where we have no idea what is about to happen.
Things continue to get even weirder. The group drive back into town and find it deserted but as they bang on the window of the empty diner, Salvas camera cuts to the inside where we see the diner is full of customers who eat on ignoring the others outside. Or when they find no matter where they go, they keep returning to the house one where Luke Kleintank is unnerved to see bodies hanging from the tree outside. There is the return appearances of the army of what the credits call Axe Men who all walk in unison shuffling on one side and start and stop depending on the nearness to which Luke Kleintank gets to opening the cellar door. There is the strange images of people talking to floor vent grilles throughout and then the appearance of Luke Kleintanks mother (Lesley-Anne Down) imploring him to open the cellar door and then turning to reveal that half of her face is missing.
Eventually, Dark House is revealed to be another variant on the occult film. Certainly, Victor Salvas eerily out there scares and the script, which is determined to write it with an Old Testament fire, makes for a completely original entry in a modern genre dominated by tired and cliched copies of Rosemarys Baby (1968) or ridiculous efforts like Legion (2010). The only disappointment is the ending, which tapers off with lack of conclusion and leaves one unsure whether the cellar door has been opened or what has happened to Luke Kleintank.