Tobe Hooper, eat your heart out.
Basically, what “Dark Ride” offers up is a serial killer who escaped from a mental institution (familiar, no?) who sets up shop in a theme park attraction called, not surprisingly, “Dark Ride”.
If it sounds familiar, it’s because you may be aficionado enough to remember “The Funhouse”, Tobe Hooper’s film that did almost the exact same thing. Now, you may be wondering just how a a knockoff managed to get itself into the After Dark Horrorfest, possibly the greatest collection of fright films ever known. That’s not too hard. They got there by doing something so outrageous, so shocking, so previously thought impossible that another example escapes me: they made it better than the original they knocked off. I’m not kidding, i’m not on crack, and I’m not any more insane than normal. The knockoff has surpassed the original. How is that possible? Let me lay it out.
First, they also have an opening menu fit to challenge “Gravedancers”. It’s set up like an actual amusement park ride, complete with various rooms and track-like movement.
Second, they managed to inject humor into the proceedings, especially with the addition of a freaky hitchhiker into the mix. Not too much, though–it’s clear that everyone involved knows this is a horror movie. But a few laughs every now and then never hurt.
Third, the combination of the fairly cheesy boardwalk ride coupled against the reality of mass murderers running amok using themes from the ride itself really makes for a good, chilling combination.
There is, however, one problem with “Dark Ride”. It’s going to take a DAMN long time to get set up–fully an hour will go by before much interesting happens that’s not just backstory. But once it does, oh man…look out. It’ll be positively vicious. The ending features a really rather shoddily done blood-filled dummy effect that should be too lowbrow for the After Dark Horrorfest. Oh, and there’s also a pretty good surprise in there for those who got through the unusually long setup intact.
The special features include filmmakers’ commentary, a making-of featurette, a special effects makeup featurette, a storyboard montage, deleted scenes, and trailers for the After Dark Horrorfest, “The Hamiltons”, “Reincarnation”, “Unrest”, “Penny Dreadful”, and “Wicked Little Things”.
All in all, you get what you pay for. An overly long setup time does yield a truly impressive climax, but that climax just can’t hold for long enough to be satisfying. Solidly done, but still lacking that little something extra.