WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the movie “The House of Darkness”.house of darkness, the latest scary story from acclaimed writer Neil LaBute, is currently available on demand and digitally. After befriending a woman he met at the bar, a player drives her home to his secluded estate, hoping for luck. However, things only get stranger as the film progresses and the night takes a turn he never could have expected.
The film stars Justin Long (Jeepers Creepers, new girl), Kate Bosworth (The Return of Superman, Blue Crush), Gia Crovatin (I feel pretty), and Lucy Walters (You’re here).
Writer-director Neil LaBute talks to Screen Rant about the inspiration behind his horror film and centers it around a “kind” character.
Screen Rant: What was the inspiration behind House of Darkness? What made you want to write it?
Neil LaBute: Well, I’ve done a lot of theater in my day, and I love really controlled environments like that. And I did a few films that were also bedroom plays. I had written this, and it was really a stepping stone to the idea of ”What if I write a bad date and take it in a direction like this” rather than “It’s just a wrong date, this might be the worst date you could have ever had.” And so having that, and being in a time where we were looking to do something very controlled and with a small cast and few locations, it was just kind of a sweet spot in terms of having the script. Sometimes I find myself in places where I have done this in the past.
I did a movie called Some Velvet Morning a few years ago that Stanley Tucci and Alice Eve did. And it could have been on stage, it could have been on film – I finally made a film and I didn’t make it on stage. So that’s something I looked at. I probably could have staged it too. But like I said, it was a good time to make a movie out of something like that. So having this really controlled environment was a blessing when we were dealing with COVID and all that, and not like a “COVID movie”, but just made in that time, and it was exactly what we were looking for. But as far as wanting to write it, I just liked the idea of taking the audience on a ride that’s like, “Oh, it’s gonna go one way” and then taking them in a very different by the time you get to the end.
Screen Rant: In developing that this is a bedroom piece, did you have to do anything special with blocking or dialogue because of the setting?
Neil LaBute: Yes. Because it’s a limited framework, you want to think very carefully about how incredibly important all of this is to you. How am I going to use this house? How am I going to use this setting? How long can we stay in this room? When to move to another space? Why are they moving? Let’s say you have people in your house. You can sit in a room for two hours and talk and someone can get up and go to the kitchen or whatever, but you’re not constantly moving around to keep it “interesting”.
In a movie or a theater, you often get the impression, “Well, people just move because I want the image to stay moving or interesting for the audience”, thinking that they’ll just not to sit and listen to people. And I always thought, “Yeah, if it’s good enough, they will.” I’m going. I know as a viewer. So it was important for the actors to really have a sense of – why are we moving now? Why are we going out? What do we have in this house that we can use, and how are we going to use it best? And then some practical stuff that happens. It’s going to rain tonight. We were going out. Should we still go out or should we stay inside? Just a lot of sometimes mundane, sometimes artistic things that come into play.
Screen Rant: Like you said, a lot of the creep factor and weirdness is based on dialogue and conversation. You can’t rely on scary jumps in a movie like this. Was there anything difficult about this aspect?
Neil LaBute: I think, for Justin, it was probably about maintaining the tricky kind of calibration of going from a “nice guy” that he calls himself multiple times in various ways, to a guy where. ..I think some people in the audience will be like, “Oh, boy, did he get what he deserved.” That he couldn’t be killed fast enough for some people’s tastes. I think when you have a guy like Justin Long with some goodwill, people like to see him in a magazine and they’re like, ‘Oh, that guy makes me laugh. He is funny. He is nice. You have that happening and so you can allow that character to say a lot of things.
Otherwise, someone else might put you off immediately, but you look at him and say, “Oh, he’s just nervous. He’s just like that. We find excuses for the people we love. And so he had to go from being this guy who, “Oh, I didn’t want to come in. I just wanted to drop you off”, to being a guy who, even when it looks like, “You might not make it out alive “, he’s still angry and irritable and at least he feels like he’s totally in control. And so that’s a good distance to cover in ninety minutes. Getting Justin to land in all those in-between places is important, so we spent some time trying to make that happen.
Screen Rant: Was there anything else you were trying to accomplish by making this character, you know, not necessarily the best guy?
Neil LaBute: I think I wanted to create this kind of gray area where, if you looked at it as a typical date movie, if you reversed that, and she was at his house, you would be worried about her in a certain way, but I don’t think you’re worried about him in the same way. Even if you look at her and think, “There’s something about her. What’s with her long hair? What’s with that dress? Look at this house she lives in.
All your flags should be up, but he keeps huffing because he even says, “She’s weird, but she’s so attractive.” So he continues to be guided by something other than his brain to enter that house and get to where he is. But all the time, he kind of feels like he’s in charge, and so I think that says a lot about that kind of blind male side that men can have, that they’re in charge of. They have control. And how that, when placed under the auspices of a horror movie, everything can change in an instant.
Screen Rant: So where was this filmed? Was it a set? Was it there?
Neil LaBute: The location was a private home in Arkansas.
Screen Rant: Oh, wow.
Neil LaBute: Yeah, well, it’s for sale if you’re interested [laughs]. A guy who makes, like, moldings, you know? Carpentry. All the wood you can see in the house is the kind of work he’s done in the past and made a fortune out of. And he built this kind of American representation of a Scottish castle in Arkansas, and we saw that he was available to film. We thought it gave the kind of gothic feel without feeling like, “Oh, we’re in a house here, obviously from the 18th century.” It still had the look of a modern house and so…vaguely spooky without being downright spooky.
Synopsis of the house of darkness
After meeting at a local bar, a man accompanies a beautiful, mysterious woman to her luxurious, secluded estate. However, he soon gets more than expected when their playful flirtation turns into something sinister.
Discover our others house of darkness interview with stars Gia Crovatin and Lucy Walters.
house of darkness is currently available on demand and digital on September 13.