Sunday, 22 January 2012

Dark Ride (2006)

I was rummaging about in a bargain bin in the DVD section of my local supermarket when I had the misfortune of coming across this shitfest. Always my Achilles' heel I will for damn sure pick up slashers in the hope of getting cheap thrills from a decent slash and hack fest. It is a matter of nostalgia looking for a good slasherthon due to my fond memories of the gory early 80’s golden age. Although not in most cases, the more creative of sub-genres there are some entertaining good times in this exploitation cinema. 

Therefore, in my usual moment of nostalgic weakness I bought ‘Dark Ride’ not knowing much at all about the movie at the time. It was one of the first ever 8 Films To Die For to screen at the After Dark Horrorfest. The term “dark ride” in the carnival business means rides in dark enclosed buildings that have the carts moving through characters and props appearing at intervals to surprise and entertain. This amusement park attraction should have been a great slasher setting but this dreary offering fails to capitalize on this nifty idea unlike Tobe Hooper’s entertaining and underrated ‘The Funhouse’ (1981). This is just a waste of time and embodies everything that is wrong with the slasher sub-genre today. It is a tired and generic offering terribly written and directed with bad characterization, awful acting, awkward pacing and the kills are extremely lacklustre. 

Ten years ago, a psychopath named Jonah committed the brutal double murder of teenage twin sisters in a dark ride on the boardwalk of an amusement park. Present day, he escapes his incarceration in a mental institution and makes his way back to the once abandoned setting of his previous crime, which is now due to be reopen. That very night a group of unknowing five college friends stop by a petrol station on a road trip on their spring break holiday. Movie buff Bill (Patrick Renna) spots a promotional flyer for the attraction in the next town. Bill and the rest of the gang Cathy (Jamie-Lynn Sigler), Steve (David Clayton Rogers), Liz (Jennifer Tisdale), Jim (Alex Solowitz) and Jen (Andrea Bogart) a hitchhiker chick they pick up on the way decide to break in and spend a night in the ride unaware of the danger that awaits them.

These set of hormonally charged teens are some of the most obnoxious and unlikable characters ever to grace a slasher. That is really saying something about the quality of writing or lack of it considering the amount of bad ones I have sat through in my life with constantly irritating stereotypes polluting the screen. There is nothing set in stone or coming out of a burning bush that says, “slasher films have to have a cast of complete and utter idiots.” There is no reason whatsoever! The majority of screenwriters for these movies always write cardboard cut-out one-dimensional wafer thin characters and this film is a testament to that. For evidence that this is not a compulsory element then check out the original ‘My Bloody Valentine’ (1981) for good characterization with the cast actually being likable.

To supplement this infuriation the terribly written dialogue that they disgorge will also rub you up the wrong way. The acting is rotten as well and that is shame considering Jamie-Lynn Sigler was very good in her role as Meadow in the ‘The Sopranos’. To add insult to injury the pacing is a slow slow burn. It is bad enough that these characters are so intolerable, the dialogue so atrocious and the acting so abysmal but we are forced to spend as much time with them as the running time permits. When Jonah escapes the mental hospital after dispatching two moronic orderlies for taunting him it leads the viewer to believe that more carnage is just around the corner. Not so instead for the rest of the first act and the whole of the second we have to put up with watching these immensely unlikable people, who if existed in the real world we would not give the time of day to getting high and telling stories. When Jonah finally turns up and does some slashing, we are so grateful.

However, I really do not want to be cheering on some nutter slicing and dicing young people. I want to be caring about them and fearing for them hoping they make it out alive and sad when they meet their demise. I want to be scared and not have a big grin on my face as some arsehole meets a welcome death. It is impossible to care for the gang in ‘Dark Ride’ and when you are cheering on the villain to do them in it is just not good horror.

The kills are not even good either so the one thing that would make a movie of this ilk passable viewing on a boring Sunday afternoon is not present. I tell a lie there is one decent murder scene in the entire 90 minutes. The hitchhiker Jen slowly has her head cut off from behind as she is giving oral sex to an unknowing Jim during which he ejaculates in her mouth. Do you get it? She loses her head while giving head. Ha Ha! That is it the rest of the onscreen kills are minimal and what you do see is just absurd.

There is a substantial lack of logic here even for a slasher horror. I cannot figure out for the life of me how they cannot find their way out of this ride. There are tracks running down the middle of the place that must lead to a way out and why do they not just go back out the way they came in?

The killer Jonah is as uninspiring as an antagonist can get in a tired stalk and slash flick. He is just another psycho who has escaped the loony bin to kill annoying as hell teenagers as he wears a straitjacket and a ridiculously small tight fitting clown mask. His backstory is also equally high in the groan department. There is a twist at the end regarding Jonah in which it turns out that one of the gang Bill has been hiding a secret; a common although not compulsory trait of the slasher film. This does not add any wow factor at all considering the previous events have been so mundane we could just not care less.

This turd sums up the sad sorry state of today’s American slasher sub-genre. Will I learn from purchasing this tripe? No, I probably will not. If there is ever a chance I might get to relive my adolescent years of watching slashing good times then I will make the same mistake repeatedly.

* out of ****
Dave J. Wilson 

©2012 Cinematic Shocks, Dave J. Wilson - All work is the property of the credited author and may not be reprinted or reproduced elsewhere without permission.


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