Seeking shelter from a storm, five travelers are in for a bizarre and terrifying night when they stumble upon the Femm family estate.Seeking shelter from a storm, five travelers are in for a bizarre and terrifying night when they stumble upon the Femm family estate.Seeking shelter from a storm, five travelers are in for a bizarre and terrifying night when they stumble upon the Femm family estate.
The Old Dark House is one of the first haunted house films ever made, and it works, primarily, for two reasons; the house itself and the cast of characters. Both of these entities are intriguing elements in their own right, and they combine to great effect. The house is, as you might expect, old and dark; and it's a sublime horror setting because of that. It creates a constant sense of malice and through it's dark corridors and many rooms, Whale is able to make the house into a labyrinth where we can believe that anything can happen. This coupled with the fact that the 'normal' people in the house are stranded there, thus creating claustrophobia along with the raging storm outside makes for an atmosphere that is as dark and morbid as anything that cinema has ever given us. The characters inside the house are enigma's themselves; each one is as frightening and inventive as the other, and they have all been imitated several times by later horror films. Even the travellers that are stranded in the house are given unique to each other. Whale also uses a few of these characters to implement his own brand of black humour (which can be felt strongly in his other three films as well). Many horror films don't work character-wise because they're all so similar to each other; but this film certainly doesn't suffer from that.
Overall, The Old Dark House is another feather in Whale's already feather filled cap. It's as genius as any of his other horror films and overall it's a crying shame that Whale didn't do more work in that genre, as that is the genre that is so rightfully his. If I haven't made it clear enough already: this film comes with the highest recommendation from me.
- Nov 11, 2004