Monday, May 21, 2007


DARK
RIDE
(Review)

Bolstered by the interesting The Abadoned (review in Archive: May 2007), I came at my fourth After Dark Horrorfest title, Craig Singer’s Dark Ride, with a smidgen of hope that this would at least be better than J.S. Cardone’s Wicked Little Things (review in Archive: April 2007).
No.
Such.
Luck.
If I had seen this as a double bill alongside Wicked Little Things, I would’ve right then and there changed the title of the affair to the “After Crap Horrorfest.”
But, onto the details…

There’s a perfunctory prologue set in the 80’s, which sees a pair of frizzy-haired twins (Brittney and Chelsea Coyle) get murdered in a dark ride. (And as early as this, there is no attempt at all to make our first view of the film a memorable one. No move to grab hold of our attention the way Wes Craven did at the start of Scream, or Hideo Nakata, in Ringu. This is a painfully standard opening that serves simply as the switch that starts the film’s clunky narrative engine, and nothing more.)
The opening titles then offer a montage of newspaper clippings, filling us in on the aftermath: 14 other bodies are found on the premises, the killer is put in a mental institute, and the ride is closed.
Flash forward as the millennium turns, and it seems that the dark ride is about to open up for business again.
We’re then introduced to five college students set to go off on a road trip for spring break. One unstable hitchhiker later (Jen, played by Andrea Bogart), and they’re off to the infamous dark ride of the title, a pamphlet for its impending opening apparently found by Bill (Patrick Renna, from TV’s Boston Legal; genre fans may remember him as the vampiric pizza delivery boy, Ronnie Strickland, in the hilarious X-Files episode “Bad Blood”) in a gas station rest room.
They’re off to the dark ride because a) they want to save money, so they decide they’d like to spend the night there; and b) because Bill argues that everyone says their generation doesn’t do anything and is doomed. “So let’s do something,” he says, with the earnest conviction of the damned and the completely insane.
Yes, let’s! Let’s break into an amusement park ride where at least 16 people were killed, so we can prove to all those naysayers that, dammit, our generation is not doomed! That we have significance!
Why is the average (or, in this case, far-less-than-average) horror movie populated by morons?

Naturally, bad things happen at the dark ride, though it does take some time before the blood starts to spatter. And when the “thrills” kick in, they are, appropriately enough, of the funhouse variety, mechanical and ultimately meaningless.
More to the point, this entire movie smacks of pointlessness. There doesn’t seem to be an ounce of creativity or intelligence in the entire production, and the blatant transparency of the tale Bill tells is vaguely insulting to the audience; any horror fan worth his salt should spot the “twist” coming a light year away.
And when you suddenly drop a gratingly annoying “Two weeks earlier” flashback in the midst of the proceedings without an apparently good reason, you just have to throw up your hands and the towel. (The baby, the bath water, and the kitchen sink too, while you’re at it. And throwing them in the general direction of Craig Singer’s head would be good. Now that’s entertainment!)

I apologize. I don’t normally advocate violence (or mash up my clich├ęs), but Dark Ride was really just a lame excuse for a horror movie. It’s jostling with Plane Dead for Worst Movie I’ve Seen This Year Thus Far.
And as for the After Crap (oops, I mean After Dark) Horrorfest score card, I hoped it wasn’t possible, but this is actually worse than Wicked Little Things.
(Wow. I’m looking back at that last sentence, and I can’t believe I actually typed that.)

Well, I’m at the halfway mark of the After Dark Horrorfest*, and the score is 1-3, in favour of the “What were they thinking? Can I have my money back?” School of Horror Films.
When will the madness stop?!

* The other four Horrorfest titles are: Jason Todd Ipson’s Unrest; Richard Brandes’ Penny Dreadful; Mike Mendez’s The Gravedancers; and the Butcher Brothers’ The Hamiltons.

Parting shot: To any Sopranos fans, Jamie-Lynn Sigler’s in this one.

(Dark Ride OS courtesy of toxicshock.tv.)

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