David Clayton Rogers
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Dark Ride (2006)
13th Dec 07
If you fancy killing some time on a road-trip, what better way to do so than to visit the scene of a grisly crime and then plan to spend the night there? That’s just what five college friends and a flirty hitch-hiker agree to do some ten years after the murder of twin girls, in a soon to be re-opened ‘Dark Ride’ at a New Jersey amusement park.
By some coincidence the very same deformed murderer, Jonah (Dave Warden) who committed the crime, has happened to escape from his mental institution and pop along to the scene of his many crimes. Can you guess what happens next?
First shown at last November’s ‘After Dark Horrorfest’ in the States, (which champions movies deemed to be too extreme for the mainstream), Dark Ride is a mixed bag of pleasures that still ends up entertaining despite it's shortcomings.
Sharing some similarities with Tobe Hooper’s 1981 amusement park outing The Funhouse – young things trapped by a deformed killer – Dark Ride makes the most of its rather unique and under-used setting. The ‘Dark Ride’ is similar to that of our Ghost Train rides, albeit in director Craig Singer’s movie, tinged with a larger quota of the horrific stuff.
Forget skeleton props cackling at you as you ride through on the carriage for two, this Dark Ride offers up costumed and gored mannequins better suited to London’s Chamber of Horrors. And despite Singer not quite making the most of such a setting, its garish visuals make for a refreshing change as a backdrop for an otherwise above average slasher pic.
Cameraman Vincent E. Toto’s framing is inspired adding a much needed creepiness to the proceedings that Singer’s rather flat direction tends to miss the mark on. Hats off too to the make-up effects guys! Decapitations and head splitting amongst other splendidly grisly moments are all very well done.
Johan, the movie’s deformed killer, is another plus, his mask is kind of a cross between a cherub and a Teletubby. He makes for a very eerie presence on the screen as he despatches his victims. In fact the bugger makes your skin crawl big time and brings to mind Leatherface, as played by Gunnar Hansen rather than the later incarnations, as he moves almost stealth-like in the shadows.
Dark Ride refreshingly the movie takes its time to build up to its pay-off and holds off from killing any of the main characters till nearly an hour in. The film could have still had benefited from some pruning of pointless chat (Andrea Bogart’s initial chat left me cold). This would have saved the viewer the ordeal of sitting through character stuff that adds nothing to the proceedings and feels chucked in for no other reason than unnecessary padding or a lack of knowing what works and what doesn’t.
There is enough here to convince that the director has a promising future in the genre when it comes to achieving a ‘look’ and delivering with the gore. What Singer lacks is an ability to write decent dialogue. He also comes a cropper with a final twist that aims to look smart but is so dumb and contrived that the only people thinking its clever would be himself and his co-writer.