It’s time for #TrashOrTerrorTuesday
…when I examine a film that’s been languishing in my personal library to determine if it is #Trash or #Terror
– or more importantly, if it deserves to stay in my collection.
And so, out from the dusty shelves of #VHS tapes & DVDs comes…
Dark Ride (2006) by #CraigSinger
Six friends on a road trip to New Orleans stop at a closed amusement park funhouse unaware that the former resident psychopath (who murdered two girls there back in the 1980s) has coincidentally just escaped from a mental institution and returned to his old stomping grounds.
“The Last Ride You’ll Ever Take…”
Dark Ride (2006) is part of the After Dark HorrorFest “8 Films To Die For” series. I tried to see all of them when they first came out. Some I purchased in order to do so. I found the films to be a bit of a mixed bag back in the day. Some were great, but others were… forgettable. Dark Ride was somewhere in between, and I think I kept it because I have a soft spot for horror set at carnivals. Fifteen years later, it’s still sitting on my shelf – but should it be?
So, I decided to put it to the #TrashOrTerrorTuesday test.
It becomes clear, pretty fast, that Dark Ride is a pastiche of older, better horror films. It’s practically an unauthorized remake of Tobe Hooper’s “Hey let’s spend the night in…” The Funhouse (1981). It has a healthy dose of Halloween (1978), as it features a psychopath who murdered in the past escaping from a mental institution and returning to the scene of his crime. It also includes a “picking up a strange hitchhiker” subplot that almost seems to mirror the famous sequence in Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
The hitchhiker in Dark Ride is a hot blonde neo-hippie type – and she makes a crazy speech while riding in the van which seems to unsettle some of the main characters. It’s played more for humour, here – and the whole scene seems ridiculous as one of the main characters fantasizes about picking a hot female hitchhiker right before it happens. And, as luck would have it, this hot hitchhiker actually wants to have sex with the very guy who fantasized about it.
The escape of the psychopath seems totally unrelated to the events of the movie. It’s not like Michael Myers biding his time until Halloween, or Mrs Voorhees returning to Camp Crystal Lake when they are about to re-open it. This killer simply escapes on this night because a couple of asshole orderlies decide to taunt him with some raw meat. He’s a vegetarian, you see.
It’s just bad luck that a van full of typical slasher victims decides to “spend the night” in this old, abandoned “dark ride” to “save money on the motel room.” And where are they coming from anyway? They’re on their way to New Orleans, and they leave during daylight hours. It’s pitch dark when they get to the amusement park in Asbury Park, New Jersey. Not to mention that we’ve had a long montage sequence implying hours of driving. The film was shot in Los Angeles, so I guess that explains everything.
So what’s the verdict?
Dark Ride (2006) is Trash. Yes, it’s beautifully shot, and has some absolutely wonderful creepy atmosphere. An old abandoned dark ride (or funhouse) does seem like a perfect locale for a horror film. And I suppose it has some decent slasher kills, and some gore. But the script is so bad, and everything that happens is so unbelievable, that it makes the whole experience seem pointless. I didn’t care about any of the characters, and the familiar moments just made me want to watch the far superior movies that this one seems to be paying homage to (or ripping off).
The Funhouse (1981) may not be the greatest of the golden age slasher films, but I’d watch it any day over Dark Ride. Guess which one is staying in my collection…
Six friends on a road trip stop at a closed funhouse unaware that the former resident psychopath has coincidentally just escaped a mental institution and returned there.#Horror #Slasher#TrashOrTerrorTuesday pic.twitter.com/MHlArZyKyX
— Angus Kohm (@AngusKohm) December 8, 2021