Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Last Ride you'll ever Take: Dark Ride (2006)

Dark Ride (2006)
Rating: ***1/2
Starring: Jamie-Lynn Sigler, Patrick Renna and David Clayton Rogers

Who would have guessed this little title, whose plot doesn't really stray much to the superior Hooper flick The Funhouse, to be this much fun and strong on its own feet?

Sometime during the late 80s, a pair of high school twins decided to visit an old seaside dark ride before it finally close down, much to the silent dismay of the passive sibling. But with the more aggressive sister constantly taunting the other to join, the two went on the ride, only to find themselves disemboweled by a madman residing within the ride's mannequins and animatronics.

Moving forward to the present, a group of five college kids are on route to ole' New Orleans when, stopping by a gas stop, one of them is given a flyer of the infamous dark ride's reopening. As one of them just so happens to be from the very town the dark ride is in, the gang plans to crash the place instead and spend the night inside to save money from renting a motel. Along the way, they pick up a blonde hitchhiker who repays them with the ole' magic shrooms.

Upon reaching and entering the fair, they start sharing ghost stories and one of them is about our opening killer, Jonah, who turns out was captured no soon after the twins went missing. Placed in psychiatric confinement, the killer spent the next few years locked up until a few weeks earlier, as two attendants make the usual mistake of mocking the wrong loonie; after slapping him with a slab of meat (Jonah's strictly vegan, by the way), our killer has no hesitation to gouge and mutilate the two before legging his way back to the old grind.

And with the kids finally inside the ride, they might as well be Jonah's little throwback into the old foray.

Dark Ride may lack the need to be a smarter, more original piece of horror many are yearning about but, as a good stroll back to memory lane, it does shines with the same glimmer as those golden years of our favorite subgenre. Giving out a straight face as a slasher flick from the 80s and little of the self-aware, pop culture referencing 90s baby that's light on the blood and more on the intrigue.

It follows the formula down to the stereotype casts, though in here, they have a little or more depth that they should be and the film isn't shy on treating us with a few neat twists. Of Dark Ride's highlights, the one that stands out the most is that it knows how to handle its kills. It doesn't shy away from the grue and there's proper build-up, suspense and gore when it calls for it, among the best being a fellatio gone wrong and the now famous "head split". All of this done under the hands of a fairly creepy killer, whose choice of mask symbolically reflects our boogeyman's mental state.

Why won't anyone call them Ernie?
Or Gus?
The only flaw I can find here is that, while necessary, the build-up took quite a while before the real deal happens, pretty much the same set of flaws Hooper's The Funhouse suffers from. Other than that, the ending itself, while not spoiling much, can be a let down to those looking for a more satisfying ending, rather than an ambiguous gut feel. With all this, it's not hard to wonder why true slasher completists would look back to Hooper's Funhouse. Of course, Hooper's film still stand out the most, and Dark Ride is yet to learn from that title's little shortcomings, but in terms of delivering everything a slasher fan can enjoy and be familiar with, this movie does the job right, if not all the way.

Slasher fanatics take note, spot this one. May lack true perfection, but it knows what it's doing!

1 female disemboweled
1 female murdered offscreen
1 male gets a flashlight ran through his gut
1 male had an eye gouged, killed
1 male found dismembered
1 female beheaded with dagger whilst fellating
1 female killed, method not seen
1 male had head split in half with sword
1 male hit by a car and thrown unto spikes, impaled
1 male knifed on the gut
Total: 10


  1. I guess it's a love-it or loathe-it movie - and I totally loathe it :)

  2. I'm with Maynard on this one - HATED it. ;)