Encapsulated Cinema: Dark House, Cheap Thrills, and Contracted

Dark House (2014) Movie Image

Dark House (2014)

Victor Salva has only directed one movie that I’ve thoroughly enjoyed — that would be “Jeepers Creepers,” in case you’re wondering — which is why I didn’t go into his 2014 effort “Dark House” (aka “Haunted”) with any huge expectations. While the flick isn’t anything overly original or deeply fascinating — a young man discovers that he’s the owner of a creepy old house in the middle of nowhere — it’s certainly a solid way to pass the time while you’re waiting for another motion picture to come along. Salva has put together a nifty little B-movie that hits a fair number of strong chords, assuming you can get past some questionable performances and a ton of wonky scripting. The twist in the third act was a little surprising and enjoyably gory, though it does little to help you forget some of the inherent goofiness found in the first two-thirds of the movie. There’s a very good horror flick lurking beneath the surface of “Dark House.” As it stands, you’ll have to do a little digging to locate the points worth mentioning. If nothing else, you get to watch genre vet Zack Ward (“Postal,” “The Club”) do his thing. Watching the guy work is always worth a rental.

Cheap Thrills (2013) Movie Image

Cheap Thrills (2013)

What sort of sick, depraved, and disgusting things would you do for a few dollars? That’s the sort of scenario proposed by writers David Chirchirillo and Trent Haaga in director E.L. Katz’s thoroughly enjoyable dark comedy “Cheap Thrills.” Ethan Embry and the badass supreme Pat Healey star as two guys who find themselves facing a series of increasingly sinister bets perpetrated by David Koechner and Sara Paxton. At first things start out easy enough — drinking a shot of tequila before anyone else — but the dares soon take a very odd turn. The plot is definitely amusing, though it’s Healey and Embry who keep the ball rolling. Watching the guys turn against one another as the evening wears on is a wholly satisfying affair, especially once they discover their friendship definitely has its limits. Koechner is surprisingly reserved in “Cheap Thrills,” which is a huge plus considering I just finished watching the unrated version of “Anchorman 2.” Katz and company have crafted an experience that fans of “Very Bad Things” will eat with a greasy spoon. I don’t have a single complaint about the movie — it’s wonderful from start to finish. The last shot had me in stitches.

Contracted (2013) Movie Image

Contracted (2013)

Having recently watched writer/director Eric Falardeau’s uber-disgusting horror flick “Thanatomorphose,” I expected Eric England’s “Contracted” to offer up roughly the same experience. Instead, I received something a bit more grounded and somewhat more believable than Falardeau’s nightmarish affair. However, that’s not to say “Contracted” is the stronger endeavor. The flick tells the story of a young girl (Najarra Townsend) who discovers that she’s contracted a very serious illness after getting raped at a party. Over the course of three days, she watches helplessly as her body starts to fall apart. Like “Thanatomorphose,” the main character does very odd things while everyone around her seems oblivious to her condition. Unfortunately, “Contracted” skimps on the gore and tries to fill the void with emotional outbursts and poor character development. At the end of the day, horror fans are better off tracking down Falardeau’s flick and skipping “Contracted” altogether. The final twist helps explain the situation, but, honestly, I would have rather walked away not knowing what in the hell was going on. Worth a rental, but don’t go out of your way to find it.