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Dark Ride (2006)

Spoilers, typos, and bad grammar ahead. You've been warned.

I remember a time when horror was still a relatively underground genre and fans slunk around in the shadows, keeping their fandom to themselves for fear of judgement. Now, it seems everyone and their mother is a horror fan and has something to say about the genre - for better or worse. While this does mean horror movies (and related goodies) are easier for long-time genre fans to get their hands on, it also means an over-saturation of the market (leading to an excess of crap.) It also means tons of great opportunities (like festivals and conventions) have cropped up all over the place. 

The After Dark Horrorfest (or "8 Films to Die For") was at the forefront of the horror festival circuit and offered directors (and audiences alike) a terrific venue for checkin out new, original horror films. Pros and cons aside, I've often avoided the movies coming out of this festival - not because of the hype and the ever-increasing mainstream popularity of horror - but because I greatly dislike independent films. Which you definitely know if you're a regular reader of mine. I like creativity. I love innovation. I also like great production values, good writing, and convincing acting. You can see my hang ups in the indie world. 

In an uncharacteristically weak moment, I opted to watch Dark Ride, which was part of the very first 8 Films festival. I can write, unequivocally, that watching this movie served only to fuel my dislike of the indie film world.

The story reads like it was written by a bunch of film-school kids (of which I was one in the past - so I totally understand.) Two girls go to a haunted house and are murdered inside. Flash forward a decade to meet our protagonists (a group of college friends, filling all stereotypical roles) who decide to take a road trip and end up visiting a haunted house. THE SAME HAUNTED HOUSE THAT THE GIRLS WERE MURDERED IN! Queue the dramatic music. The group wanders around, lost in the attraction, slowly being killed off by some mysterious killer. Queue the dramatic reveal... turns out that one of the boys in the group is the killer (and his brother the killer 10 years before him!) SURPRISE! One of the girls survives. The movie ends. Fade to black.

Aside from the awful plot and terrible acting, the thing that struck me the most was that Dark Ride has some of the worst dubbing ever seen (outside of a Spaghetti Western.) Holy crap. It seems sort of funny that I just recently watched this piece of crap movie as I also just watched The Houses October Built, which has a similar (or sort of related) plot and equally terrible acting. More on that later

I'm sad that people keep missing the mark with these haunted / scary carnival movies. If you look back in the history of the genre, there's some terrific offerings in this realm: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (in which a girl is terrorized by an evil carnival owner), Carnival of Souls (in which a dead girl wrestles with being dead), and Freaks (in which "normal folks" prove, yet again, to be more monstrous than "abnormal folks") just to name a few.

There's so much opportunity here to play with deeper stories; exploring humanity, examining how we understand sacred spaces, the idea of ritual, and the importance of "play" vs the importance of rites of passage. Just look at Carnivale (granted it was made for TV and so had more actual on-screen time to flesh out plot lines and story arcs) but they grabbed a handful of existential plots right by the horns and ran with digging into them. Unfortunately, for every great story we get, we get multiple things like Funhouse (1981), which is a fun movie but a vapid movie.

If you don't believe me - you can read some other reviews of Dark Ride here:
Read what Bloody Disgusting had to say (it's certainly not any kinder than my take).
Or try and find the merit that Michael Saunier found for

You could watch the Dark Ride trailer here or you could spare yourself the pain and suffering and gouge your eyes out with spoons instead. Your call.

Really, truly a glutton for punishment? You can purchase a copy of Dark Ride for yourself here:


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