★★ out of ★★★★★
Created by Enzo Tedeschi
The horror anthology is one of the true staples of the horror genre. Always clever, always engaging. As we’ve said before, anthology horror is the traditional extension of gathering around ye’ ole campfire and scaring the hell out of each other. They hearken back to the oldest root forms of scary storytelling. It’s always frightening to hear a scary story, until it’s not.
Shudder’s brand new horror anthology series, Deadhouse Dark, has a great name, but not much else going for it. More frustrating is the fact that there’s no “dead house” and most of the segments aren’t particularly “dark.” Most importantly Deadhouse Dark violates one of the most sacrosanct tenets of anthology horror — the hook, the through line, the spooky connectivity between the ghastly tales. Sadly, this anthology is missing a crypt keeper/narrator, so all that’s left is a series of disconnected horror shorts.
That said, Deadhouse Dark does deliver (sort of) on one of anthology horror’s other tropes — ethical comeuppance. Several of the spook show tales do have a hint of morality story telling, but it’s just that, a hint.
Comprised of six stories ranging in length from 12 to 15 minutes, cover a wide-ranging series of scares, but again, lack the singular voice pulling you in to a consistent narrative. There’s some glimpses at greatness with these indy tales of terror, but very few of them will have you covering your eyes in utter fear.
The series kicks off with, probably the best of the six, Halloween. Following two young women out for a night of bacchanalia through the perspective of their vehicle’s dashboard camera. As they leave the party they come across a horrific car crash. As the decide to leave the car crash, seconds later they come across the car crash victim! Do they help? Do the run? Do they do the right thing, or are they the ones that are cursed?
Another interesting, but ultimately incomplete, short is A Tangled Web We Weave. Probably the only really funny short in the bunch, it features David, a senior citizen getting prepped for an online date with Ellen. The only problem, David is having Ellen over for dinner and he’s got a growing rat problem in his house. As the evening unwinds, Ellen discovers that David’s real problem might not be the rats, but something far more sinister and twisted. Be careful out there online daters! It’s a tricky business and there’s some real weirdos out there.
Taken as a series of disconnected horror shorts that you might run across at film festival might’ve made this group of creepy crawlies more palatable. But, trotted out as a single family of fright in the context of the Deadhouse Dark series, leaves a lot to be desired. Make no mistake, horror anthology films are great. Creepshow (1982), Trick ‘R Treat (2008), and Kwaidan (1966) are great examples of a singular voice with multiple stories paying off in a cohesive narrative. Deadhouse Dark is just a bunch of singular stories that happens to be bound together by a pretty cool name.
Deadhouse Dark is likely Rated R and currently streaming on Shudder.