Dark Ride: Killer Carnival Flick Less Scary Than a Teacup Ride

From 2006 to 2010, the After Dark Horrorfest gave diehard horror fans the ‘8 Films To Die For’. Most of the movies released have probably been long forgotten. Of course, a couple of horror gems came out of the festival including Frontier(s) and Lake Mungo. At its core, the After Dark Horrorfest was intended to give a platform for horror movies considered ‘too extreme’ for theatres. On paper, this should have been the perfect venue for the slasher subgenre to return to its ‘Golden Era’ form. And haunted attraction slasher Dark Ride had both the premise and setting to succeed. Yet it somehow manages to drop the ball on each of these fronts.

Synopsis

Twenty years ago, a hulking, masked madman brutally murdered twin girls in a carnival dark ride. Now the infamous carnival ride is re-opening. And just in time. As a group of college students head out for Spring Break shenanigans, they decide to make a pit stop at the roadside attraction. But they’re not the only ones returning to the ‘dark ride’. After escaping from a mental health facility, the same masked killer is coming home and he has only thing on his mind.

Dark Ride about as Generic as Most Carnival Attractions

After three decades of slasher movies, Dark Ride doesn’t offer anything new to the subgenre. This in and of itself is not a bad thing. Not every horror movie needs re-invent the wheel. Too bad Dark Ride doesn’t aspire to much of anything interesting. Director Craig Singer kicks things off with a hint of promise. His backstory creates a bit of tensions and even has a few mild jumps. Most horror movies shy away from violence with children. In contrast, Dark Ride shocks a bit with its early graphic aftermath. Unfortunately, Singer wastes this early promise by making a few fatal errors.

Singer’s pacing is sluggish and, in the absence of atmosphere, interesting characters, and scares, there’s nothing to keep your interest.

Among his mistakes, Singer overestimates just what kind of material with which he’s working. Similar movies released around the same time – Hatchet being the most notable example – got to business quickly and rarely relented. Gorehounds want buckets of blood, and movies like Hatchet and The Hills Run Red delivered. Though Dark Ride certainly isn’t shy about its violence, this slasher takes far too long to get to it. Singer’s pacing is sluggish and, in the absence of atmosphere, interesting characters, and scares, there’s really nothing to keep your interest.

Dark Ride Lives Up To Some of Its After Dark Billing

During the course of its run, the After Dark Festival and its ‘8 Films to Die For’ has given us some horror gems. To some extent, Dark Ride lives up to some of its After Dark billing. Arguably, the slasher’s only strength, or selling point, are some of its graphic death scenes. If you’ve seen enough of the ‘8 Films to Die For’, then you’ll have certain expectations. And Dark Ride boasts some gory kills achieved through innovative practical effects. Some head-splitting action and an evisceration involving a flashlight will satisfy diehard slasher fans. Nonetheless, there’s too little of these slasher-metrics in light of everything else that’s missing from the movie.

Dull Characters and Weak Performances Make for a Cheap Ride

No one watches a slasher movie for Oscar-winning performances and compelling character arcs. Still one hopes for characters that at least inspire some kind of audience identification. But Dark Ride’s characters are either dull or just plain unlikable. There’s no one to root for in a movie where the characters are whiny, dim, and barely resemble real people. Fresh off of The Sopranos, Jamie-Lynn Sigler brings very little to Dark Ride. Despite the paper-thin screenplay, Sigler just looks bored with the material in what’s clearly a paycheque role. At least 90’s kids will enjoy a bit of nostalgia with The Sandlot’s Patrick Renna showing up. Renna’s miscast, but it’s nice to see him.

Fresh off of The Sopranos, Jamie-Lynn Sigler just looks bored with the material in what’s clearly a paycheque role.

Another major problem with Dark Ride is the movie’s killer – Jonah. To say Jonah’s a nondescript horror villain would be an understatement. Part of the problem is Singer and Robert Dean Klein’s backstory for their killer. That is, there is no backstory. Yes, Dark Ride introduces us to Jonah with the its nasty opening sequence. But the slasher never follows up on it, failing to give Jonah any kind of discernible trait. As a result, he lacks any sort of presence. Simply put, there’s nothing scary or intimating about Dark Ride’s killer. Much like the rest of the movie, he’s completely forgettable.

Dark Ride Wastes Its Setting and Premise

With no shortage of slashers on various streaming platform, Dark Ride is pretty unremarkable stuff. Dull characters, poor performances, a generic plot, and a forgettable villain all undo any goodwill achieved from the scant graphic death scenes. Ultimately, there’s very little to recommend here. Not only is Dark Ride never scary, it’s often boring. Horror fans would be better off visiting an actual haunted attractions for real scares.

THE PROFESSOR’S FINAL GRADE: C-

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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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