Written by: Craig Singer and Robert Dean Klein
Directed by: Craig Singer
Reviewed by: Brett G.
In 2006, After Dark Films announced Horrorfest, an 8 film horror movie festival that would take place in select American cities in November of that year. Dubbed “Eight Films to Die For,” the festival essentially gave eight independent horror films a chance to shine in theaters. Essentially, these were selected by After Dark as the best of the best when it comes to independent horror. Naturally, I was skeptical of the flicks, as they’re essentially direct-to-video material that just happened to play in theaters for a couple of days. However, I couldn’t resist picking up the flicks when they went on sale for $5 apiece late last year, and I’m just now getting around to them.
The next flick in my tour through the After Dark series is Dark Ride, a throwback to the slasher films of yesteryear. The film opens in 1989 at an amusement park on the Jersey Shore. Two twin sisters have decided to take one final ride on The Dark Ride, the park’s haunted house attraction, before the park shuts down for the summer. During the ride, however, the two girls are mysteriously slaughtered by someone inside. The film then flashes ahead to the present day to a local college on the verge of spring break. Here we meet our principals, Cathy and Liz, two roommates that are about to embark on a road trip along with a group of friends. Along the way, the group finds a flyer advertising the re-opening of The Dark Ride, and one of the students recounts the grisly history of the attraction. Then, in good horror movie fashion, someone decides that it would be a great idea to break into the ride and spend the night there.
Of course, if you’ve ever seen any slasher movie, you know what happens here: the mysterious killer from a decade earlier has escaped from his asylum and has returned to the Dark Ride. Our characters are then systematically dispatched one by one as the film twists and turns towards its conclusion. As you have probably realized by now, Dark Ride is your standard slasher flick. The characters are the same stereotypes you’ve encountered throughout the genre: the stoner, the geek, the slut, and, of course, “the final girl.” For the most part, these characters are well-realized and well-acted. The character of Bill is probably the most sympathetic of the bunch, but it’s probably due to the fact that he’s played by Patrick Renna (of The Sandlot fame). For the most part, however, the characters are there to be killed off in gruesome fashion.
So, Dark Ride appears to be nothing special from a story standpoint—does anything separate this from the morass of slasher films out there? Not particularly. There is a twist at the end of the film, but you’ll see it coming a mile away so it loses its effectiveness. Also, the film slows down quite a bit in the middle and gets bogged down by exposition that doesn’t serve much purpose for the viewer besides foreshadow that twist. The haunted house setting is an interesting deviation from the norm, but even that’s been done a few times. One the film does well is gore—there’s tons of it here, and there are some truly disgusting sequences. The villain here, Jonah, doesn’t offer anything particularly new, but his escape from the mental institution is aided by a ridiculous factor: a taste for meat that enables him to gain super strength. I’m not making this up. Jonah is basically your big, lumbering slasher villain that’s cut out of the Jason Voorhees mold, and he does have some spectacularly gruesome kills, so if you’re into gore, this film is for you.
Like Wicked Little Things, the first film I reviewed in the After Dark series, Dark Ride is a straight up horror film. It’s competently directed and acted, and it doesn’t try to do anything you’ve never seen before. As such, I would only recommend this to you if you’ve already exhausted the numerous amount of slasher films that are already out there. This film has already been done before several times, with Hooper’s The Funhouse being a noticeable example. As far as modern slashers go, it’s among the best, which isn’t saying much of course. If you enjoyed Hatchet, you will probably enjoy this one. Like many modern slashers, this one ultimately comes off as being a bit too stylish and doesn’t feel as gritty as its predecessors from the 80s, but hey, that decade ended nearly twenty years ago. Still, if you’re starving for some slasher action, run on down to your local store and check out the DVD, which features a more than adequate presentation. Rent it!
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