Horror could be the genre best suited to the short film format. Tension and tension are both good and worthwhile, and they benefit from the slow, elongated approach of horror directors like Guillermo del Toro, Ben Wheatley, or Jennifer Kent. But just terror? Terror is an instant response that enables condensed storytelling and anthology films such as To tell scary stories in the dark and The morgue Use this quality to your advantage. Each of these anthologies offers fear in about 20 minute increments, from the exploding spider bite of the former to the elaborate babysitter frame story of the latter. The builds are quick and the payouts are satisfactorily worrying.
The latest offering in this subgenre is Shudder’s anthology horror collection Deadhouse Dark, draws on the same approach in its six stories, loosely linked by the general fear of the “dark web”. But apart from a few exceptionally shocking moments, Deadhouse Dark is a shaky collection that does not take advantage of the unique connectivity that an anthology format can offer.
Most films on social media take a broad perspective: “Relying on technology is risky”: either literally, like Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman nerveor figuratively like Gia Coppola’s upcoming mainstream. Deadhouse Dark falls somewhere in the middle, with tangible and disembodied horrors. The six stories in the film have, for the most part, one predictable common ground: the suggestion that our desire for attention, filtered through social media, is our greatest weakness. Explicit sources of danger are the immediate trust in people met online and the demand for consent from strangers. And Deadhouse Dark has a special afterschool atmosphere in the episodes “No Pain No Gain” and “The Staircase”.
But in its strongest entries, Deadhouse Dark The emphasis is not on the technology itself as a threat, but on the friction between our trust in technology and nature’s refusal to submit to its authority. (See also: Wheatley’s Down in the soil.) Deadhouse Dark Starts strong with director Rosie Lourde’s “Dashcam”, in which two sisters returning home from a Halloween party come across an abandoned car on a forest path. Through the dashcam footage, we see the older sister get out and inspect the scene while her younger sister photographs the wreck from the inside. The duality of dashcam and mobile phone creates an annoying feeling of simultaneity. “Dashcam” leads this duplication to its surreal conclusion, which transforms all these elements – the dark forest, a girl who staggers, howls and screams in a blood-covered dress, who echoes through the forest – into an effectively creepy tableau.
The later episode “A Tangled Web We Weave” also wins because of the genre conventions involved. While Nicolas Hope’s David is preparing for a personal date with a woman he met through a dating app, he hears a scratchy noise in his house. Does he have a rodent problem? While obsessed with the tiny intruder, writer and director Enzo Tedeschi shares hints of David’s obsessive sense of order: piles of soup cans in his pantry, rows of rat traps on his kitchen floor. When Ellen (Barbara Bingham) comes on her date, she also senses that something is wrong and then the story shifts in a subversive direction.
“A Tangled Web We Weave” is a nod to the vengeful films in which female characters have prevailed over horror since the 1970s. Its ending, like that of “Dashcam”, cleverly uses technology as a documentation tool rather than something inherently dangerous – the mistake made by the disappointingly mundane guesses “No Pain No Gain” and “The Staircase”. And Joshua Long’s grotesque final section, “My Empire of Dirt,” which focuses on a character who refuses to die while surrounded by a hordes of decay, has nothing to do with technology. Anni Finsterer’s hoarse cackling as the corpse-like Grace, whose lungs are filled with fluid and whose body is full of wounds, will haunt the audience, but what does “My Empire of Dirt” have to do with the rest of? Deadhouse Dark
This narrative theme inconsistency and overlap is what is most frustrating Deadhouse Dark, which explicitly links “A Tangled Web We Weave” and “The Mirror Box”, but does not interweave the other four installments. This lack of connective tissue is a disadvantage and leads to Deadhouse Dark Lack of cohesion in other horror anthologies. How should these stories be viewed and compared or taken as a whole? Deadhouse Dark avoids these questions, and the technical experimentation of “Dashcam” or the nostalgic feel of “A Tangled Web We Weave” doesn’t make up for the lack of greater congruence. There are intermittent horrors here, especially the dirty exploration of the limits of mortality in “My Empire of Dirt”, but otherwise Deadhouse Dark can’t hang together.
Deadhouse Dark is now streamed on Shudder.