Directed by Craig Singer
Produced by Chris M. Williams
Written by Robert Dean Klein, Craig Singer
Director of Photograpy Vincet E. Toto
Music by Kostas Christides, Christopher Young
Cast: Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Jennifer Tisdale, Patrick Renna, David Clatyon Rogers
2006/94 mins/Color/Dolby Digital 5.1
1.78:1 anamorphic/English/USA/NTSC Region 1
Review from Lionsgate Home Entertainment DVD
During the day, amusement parks can be fun and joyous places, as they are filled with fun rides and bright colors. However, at night, they can be shadowy and creepy places, especially if the park contains some sort of haunted house ride. Given this, I've always wanted to see a good horror movie set in a creepy amusement park. (Weren't they always doing this on SCOOBY-DOO, WHERE ARE YOU?) DARK RIDE is a recent low-budget horror film set in a haunted house ride. Unfortunately, it's not the good movie for which I've been waiting.
DARK RIDE opens in 1989, where we witness two girls enter a scary ride, where they are promptly attacked and murdered. The film then moves to the present. Cathy (Jamie-Lynn Sigler) and her roommate, Liz (Jennifer Tisdale, sister of Disney Channel icon Ashley Tisdale), are headed to New Orleans for Spring Break with their friends Bill (Patrick Renna), Steve (David Clayton Rogers), and Jim (Alex Solowitz). Despite the fact that the group is supposed to be on a fun trip, there is a fair amount of tension. Cathy and Steve have recently broken-up. Liz and Jim once got intimate, much to Liz's chagrin. Bill, Steve's roommate, is a movie-geek and has trouble making friends.
Once on the road, the group stops at a gas station and Bill finds a flyer for an amusement park where the "Dark Ride" is re-opening. The travelers decide that it will be fun to take a detour to check out the park and perhaps even spend the night in the funhouse. Along the way, they pick up a hippie/slutty hitchhiker named Jen (Andrea Bogart). They soon arrive at the park and enter the "Dark Ride". At first, things seem fun, until they realize that they've been locked in the funhouse with the same killer who wreaked havoc there so many years ago.
There's a scene in SCREAM 2 where a film class is discussing sequels and one character mentions ALIENS and TERMINATOR 2, to which a classmate replies, "Someone has a hard-on for Cameron." While watching DARK RIDE, I kept thinking, "Someone has a hard-on for Tobe Hooper." The first third of the film echoes TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, as the group of college-aged kids go on a trip in a 70's conversion van, then stop at an old gas station, and then pick up a crazed hitchhiker. (Although Jen's craziness falls more into the category of party-girl rather than psycho-killer.) Once the group enters the "Dark Ride", the movie then becomes very similar to Hooper's THE FUNHOUSE, as the group is menaced by a killer who knows his way around the darkened attraction. (And the story is a bit similar to THE FUNHOUSE as well.)
Even if you think I'm way off base with the whole Hooper thing (more on that in a moment), there's no denying that the film is a throwback to the slasher films of the early 1980s. The movie features a mask-wearing killer who stalks a group of horny teens through a secluded environment. And in true slasher-film tradition, the news isn't good for those who have sex. The killer picks off his victims one-by-one and in the end, there's a shocking reveal. I felt as if I'd gone back to 1982.
The problem with DARK RIDE is that it never moves beyond this point. The film is simply a one-dimensional slasher film and nothing else. Following the killings which open the film, there isn't another on-screen death until the 1:05:00 mark. The interim is filled with scene after scene of the annoying characters insulting each other. Rarely have I seen a movie with a group of such unlikable characters. Everyone in this film is an a**hole in one way or another and it's truly hard to care about them. The murders aren't very creative and the part of the "twist" ending can be seen from a mile away.
All of this is quite a shame because for a low-budget horror film, DARK RIDE is very well-made. Director Craig Singer has given the film a very nice look and use many creative lighting schemes and interesting angles. The funhouse itself is very cool and I kept thinking that I'd rather be riding it than watching this redundant film. The killer's mask isn't necessarily original, but it is interesting. Overall, the movie simply has a sleek and polished look which raises it above it's indy peers.
Despite being derivative, DARK RIDE has potential, but it just doesn't deliver. The movie has a great look and sets, but its slow-paced and the action arrives too late. Worst of all, the movie is filled with one-note characters who we actually want to see die.
DARK RIDE has its arms and legs in at all times courtesy of Lionsgate Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. (IMDB.com lists the film's OAR at 1.85:1.) The image looks very good, as the picture is very sharp and clear. The opening scene shows some grain, but otherwise the grain is negligible and there are no defects from the source material. The colors in the funhouse look good. The DVD has a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects and dynamic range is stable. The stereo effects are OK and the surround effects in the funhouse are very effective.
The DARK RIDE DVD has a few extras. Director/co-writer Craig Singer and producer Chris M. Williams provide an AUDIO COMMENTARY for the film. Singer immediately opens by saying that he wasn't influenced by THE FUNHOUSE. Me thinks he protests too much. After that, the duo discuss the making of the film and it's interesting to hear how California locations were used to stand in for New Jersey ones. "Ticket to Ride: The Making of DARK RIDE" is a 16-minute featurette which contains lots of on-camera comments from the cast & crew. They talk about how they got involved in the film and discuss the production process. "Behind the Mask: Special Effects Make Up" (6 minutes) is a montage of shots set to music which show the designing, building, and implementation of the special fx makeup used in the film. The DVD contains 9 DELETED SCENES which run about 17 minutes. Most are simply extended versions of existing scenes, but the original opening sequence ran more longer and was much more gory. The final extra is a STORYBOARD MONTAGE (2 minutes).
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Review by Mike Long. All Right Reserved. 2007. ©
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