Dark Ride (2006)

Dark Ride (2006)

The Last Ride You’ll Ever Take…

Six friends on a road trip decide to stop off at a recently-reopened amusement park attraction called ‘Dark Ride’ but are unaware that a psychopath, who murdered two young girls there years earlier, has escaped from the mental institution he was incarcerated in and returned to the scene of his crime.

 

I could probably have just cut and pasted that introduction from one of the many, many, many slasher films that I’ve reviewed here such is the level of imagination and sheer creativity that the slasher genre provides. Taking its cue from the ‘Slasher School of Filmmaking’ automatic script generator, Dark Ride sees the usual group of attractive teenagers fall victim to a hulking madman in some remote setting. This time it’s an amusement park ride. Well I guess it could have been a motel. Or a gas station. Or a remote lodge. You get the idea. It’s straightforward enough and those looking for anything with a bit of originality best look elsewhere. The question is: does this fare any better than the other hundreds of slasher films out there?

The amusement park setting is great. We need more horror films based in them, or more specifically the haunted house/ghost train ride that they all have. Inside them, there are plenty of gruesome bodies, mannequins and dummies hanging, lying, being dismembered and just generally looking creepy. The lights flicker on and off like you’re having a seizure of some kind. They’re filled with smoke and effects to make you think you see something sinister in the shadows – that is until the big paper-maché skeleton heads drops down from the ceiling to scare the crap out of you!  Putting a sadistic killer in one of them and unleashing some horny teenagers is a classic slasher recipe and the film makes great use of the location. The cinematography inside is top drawer. Every dark corner hides a peering set of eyes. Every flickering light illuminates things that you really don’t want to be seeing. It reminded me a lot of Tobe Hooper’s far superior The Funhouse. It’s just a pity that since 1981, we’ve had way too many slasher films that have followed the same blueprint with varying degrees of success. Dark Ride seems to have been made in the wrong time period.

The main problem is that this ride just takes way too long to get underway. There’s way too much character development at the start of the film and the dialogue-laden opening half just pads out the running time a little more than it needs to. The characters are whiny and generally unlikeable. From the sluts to the token nerdy guy and comic relief, you’ll be wishing the slaughter to begin as quickly as it can. Unfortunately, the deformed maniac just lurks around in the shadows, watching and listening to the characters trying to find their way around. I was waiting for an axe to fly across the screen or one of the characters to be pulled up into the rafters to their demise but it wasn’t to be.

It’s a shame because once the blood starts to flow, the film picks itself up off the ground, dusts itself down and starts marching on proudly. Heads roll, insides ripped out and characters become impaled on sharp objects. The killer imposes himself superbly – this is one weirdo that you don’t want to be within throwing distance of. He looks like a low rent version of Michael Myers with his face mask on but his huge frame shreds any lingering doubts about his vicious nature. There are some decent stalking scenes where he plays around with his victim for a while before killing them. And we also get some requisite T&A – once again a straight-to-DVD slasher that delivers on all counts where its mainstream brothers fail miserably. Is there any wonder I’d rather watch things like this and Hatchet as opposed to cinematic releases like Prom Night.

 

Dark Ride is a weird film. It’s not bad. It’s not good. It’s just there. You can watch it easily enough but then you can forget it just as easily once you’ve finished. The 80s were the time and place for this to be a hit. Now it just looks a little out of place. Worth watching for slasher curios but everyone else stay clear.

 

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