As one of the most famous horror novels of all time, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has had its share of various media adaptations and modern reimagining’s of the bloodthirsty icon. For House of Darkness, it takes the gothic horror tale in a new direction as a slightly comical examination of modern dating and misogynistic culture.
After meeting during a casual night out, Hap (Justin Long) offers to drive Mina (Kate Bosworth) home, which leads to a nightcap inside her stunning estate. The two get to know each other with Mina’s use of blunt yet crafty questioning — which only seduces him further. As the night carries, Hap’s awkward and slightly inappropriate personality begins to come out. Yet Mina still seems interested.
Things begin to heat up between the two, but Mina’s sister Lucy (Gia Crovatin) walks in, ruining the moment. It doesn’t take long before Hap starts to flirt with her and gets the idea that the sisters may want a threesome. But as Hap toys with that fantasy in his head, there’s a more sinister plan in motion.
While the Count has been adapted countless times, I’ve become interested in how different filmmakers approach the classic literary character in new ways. Last year was a somewhat big moment for it, with this film and The Invitation hitting theaters close together. While I think the aforementioned does a better job of reimagining the story more on point, House of Darkness has quite an original take — though I would say it’s very loosely based on the source material.
And if you’re like me and have become a fan of the Justin Long horror subgenre—after his roles in films like Barbarian and Tusk—you’ll find this film to have the same clumsy charismatic charm, as his character quickly reveals how “nice guys” aren’t always as nice as they think. Hap is a slightly toned-down version of the one in Barbarian, with his more unpleasant traits just scratching the surface at first. He’s unassuming, but as Mina asks him coded questions with a smile, his true nature is apparent.
There’s a comical discomfort that the film has overall, as Bosworth teases and toys with him in a way that seems flirtatious but begins to feel unnerving. They’re in this confined setting with intimate moments steeped in heavy dialogue, so it’s fun to read into things as the night transpires. Though, I did find Bosworth to be a bit miscast in the role and not totally hitting the seductive temptress she’s suppose to be.
House of Darkness stands on its own outside of being inspired by Dracula. It keeps you engaged as it shifts into a feminist revenge story, sinking its teeth into irredeemable men. While the ending feels a bit clunky and rushed, the concept holds, and Long’s performance in the film’s entirety was particularly entertaining.
House of Darkness is currently available on Hulu