Wayward teens and mysterious ghosts clash in 'Down a Dark Hall'
What do you get when you cross five teenage delinquents with supernatural entities interested in feeding on their abilities?
In a current scenario the answer is a fairly boring and uneventful adaptation of “Down a Dark Hall.”
Veronica (Victoria Moroles), Kit (AnnaSophia Robb), Sierra (Rosie Day), Ashley (Taylor Russell) and Izzy (Isabelle Fuhrman) in “Down a Dark Hall.” (Photo Credit: Lionsgate Premiere.)
Kit (AnnaSophia Robb) is what you might call an at-risk teenager, whose mother has had enough of her antics. Unable to reel in her daughter's behavior, she agrees to ship her off to the mysterious Blackwood Boarding School in hopes of turning her around, and giving her a clean slate.
Upon arrival at the school, Kit encounters the school's bizarre staff, including head mistress, Madame Duret (Uma Thurman) and her dreamboat, music teacher son, Jules (Noah Silver); and the remainder of the student body … four other ill-tempered teenage girls – Izzy (Isabelle Furhman), Veronica (Victoria Moroles), Ashley (Taylor Russell), and Sierra (Rosie Day).
As the girls start settling in, and discovering their new paths in life, it quickly becomes apparent that the students and faculty aren't the only ones calling Blackwood home, as the school's supernatural history starts to reveal itself.
On the surface, the story sounds pretty promising, and the source material – Lois Duncan's 1974 novel of the same name – has fairly decent reviews (3.8 of 5 on Goodreads). Sadly, that promise is mostly left on the paper.
Jules (Noah Silver) and Kit (AnnaSophia Robb) in “Down a Dark Hall.” (Photo Credit: Lionsgate Premiere.)
While breezing through the film's roughly 90-minute run time, it felt like it was a slow burn building toward something grandiose. That wasn't the case though. It was indeed a slow burn, but it just kept slowly burning before quietly fizzling out.
Once it became obvious that nothing grand, intelligent, or unexpected was going to happen, I fell back on my that there would at least be some cheap scares – probably via jump scares that are seemingly always present in PG-13 horror fare. But not even those were to be had. The movie is absolutely geared toward that younger crowd, but I find it hard to believe that even that demo with find anything about this story remotely scary.
Simply put, “Down a Dark Hall” simply isn't a very good movie.
Some of that is the fault of the PG-13 and needing to tame things down to reach that demo. Some it though, simply comes down to storytelling.
Cartoonish characters, iffy acting (minus Thurman and Robb), and cheesy effects plague what should have been an interesting story. I haven't read the book, but if it's even close to as interesting as its premise (that I'm not giving away because it's the lone interesting “spoiler” about the movie), it deserved better.
★1/2 of ★★★★★
“Down a Dark Hall” is playing now at select theaters (including Emagine Lakeville) and on VOD.