School life just keeps getting more and more complicated, doesn’t it? Following the death of her father during childhood, Kit Gordy (AnnaSophia Robb) has grown up resenting both her mother and stepfather, as well as having just been expelled from her high school after a failed attempt to burn it. Attempting to correct her daughter, Kit’s mother assigns her to the Blackwood Boarding School headed by the enigmatic Madame Duret (Uma Thurman). However, he more Kit an her fellow classmates explore the manor, the more they uncover an age-old paranormal discovery.
Based on the novel of the same name by Lois Duncan and directed by Rodrigo Cortes, the premise is definitely an intriguing one that holds real promise, and you can tell it’s trying really hard to be a credible supernatural thriller, but the end result is a very odd one indeed. Despite well-intentions and interesting elements, this film couldn’t weave everything together in a satisfying way with both the writing and character development severely lacking throughout. Their is promise in the film’s first act, but as the film goes on, the second act is a tad questionable, but the final third fails to deliver in full. Supernatural horror works really well if you successfully utilise the genre’s strong elements, but the film fails to do so in a consistent method, so when the reveal arrives in the final act, it just ends up looking weird than thrilling.
That’s not to say everything is bad; the performances are great (even if Uma Thurman’s French accent is incredibly wonky), the cinematography is terrific and there is a chilling atmosphere that is nicely handled, though these elements aren’t enough to make this film any better. Down a Dark Hall is neither great, nor terrible, instead being just an average, mediocre horror film that isn’t memorable or substantial enough be anything more than what it is. Then again, it is based on a YA novel and produced by Twilight’s Stephanie Meyer, so maybe I’m not the target audience.
Dir: Rodrigo Cortés
Scr: Michael Goldbach, Chris Sparling
Cast: AnnaSophia Robb, Uma Thurman, Victoria Moroles, Isabelle Fuhrman, Taylor Russell, Rosie Day, Noah Silver
Prd: Marty Bowen, Wyck Godfrey, Adrián Guerra, Meghan Hibbett, Stephenie Meyer, Núria Valls
DOP: Jarin Blaschke
Music: Víctor Reyes
Country: USA, Spain
Run time: 96 mins
Down a Dark Hall is out now on DVD