Horror and anthologies are a match made in heaven. Examples like Trick r’ Treat and Are You Afraid of the Dark? only solidify that spooky communal ritual of swapping scary stories. Good anthologies introduce the viewer to exciting and varied chilling takes. The best ones weave these threads together into one horrifying tapestry. Shudder’s DEADHOUSE DARK ambitiously attempts to connect the dots between its six horror shorts, but some of those threads come off as frayed.
DEADHOUSE DARK assembles six short horror films from six different directors. Dashcam (directed by Rosie Lourde) straps the viewer in for the strange goings-on on a dark and lonely road, all from the view of the vehicle’s dashcam. In No Pain, No Gain, director Megan Riakos levels her gaze at the pressure put on teens by social media and their growing ambition. The Staircase (directed by Denai Gracie) strikes a nerve with its portrayal of YouTubers that exploit tragedy for views. Enzo Tedeschi’s A Tangled Web We Weave shows the dark side of online dating while My Empire of Dirt (directed by Joshua Long) unearths the sinister forces inside a woman’s home, and Mystery Box (directed by Rachele Wiggins) is the glue that holds the anthology together.
As an overall piece, DEADHOUSE DARK is very hit or miss. It strikes nearly a perfect balance between some films going above and beyond, in terms of horror innovation, and others falling flat on their face. As a series of individual parts, this is more forgivable than if it were a feature-length anthology.
When DEADHOUSE DARK is at its best, it’s inventive, fascinating, and super gross. The gore and body horror effects, when they do come up, are impressive and squirm-inducing. Dashcam, in particular, uses its premise to the absolute best effect and the dashcam-based point of view is one of the most interesting things I’ve seen in the genre in some time. As for the rest of the films, there are delightfully spooky characters and chilling intrigue sprinkled throughout. Enough to keep a viewer interested.
On the other hand, shorts like The Staircase and Mystery Box were grating and unfocused. I can appreciate the mystery behind these stories and the desire to preserve it, but what viewers get is something lacking in any clarity. The strength of the better shorts was not enough to overcome the dead weight of those that were less entertaining or interesting.
Unfortunately, the shorts of DEADHOUSE DARK were more effective as separate pieces than they were as a conjoined storyline. A pretty grim fate for an anthology. The loose ligament of online connections and social media was very strong in some of the shorts, but its presence wasn’t enough to effectively hold the film together.
DEADHOUSE DARK premieres on Shudder on April 29, 2021.
All Images Courtesy of Shudder