A little more than four years ago, director-screenwriter-playwright Neil LaBute was abruptly cancelled by MCC Theater, an upscale Off Broadway company that had produced and supported his controversial plays for 15 years. LaBute has worked steadily in features and TV since and is doing “fine”, but the MCC surprise seemed to signal an across-the-board dismissal of LaBute by #MeToo and #TimesUp progressives.
LaBute’s provocative plays and films (In the Company of Men, Your Friends & Neighbors, The Shape of Things, Fat Pig, Some Girl(s), Some Velvet Morning, Reasons To Be Pretty) have been derided by certain critics as misanthropic and misogynist. His speciality is dramatizing misunderstandings, woundings and acidic currents between contentious men and women in their 20s, 30s and 40s.
Anyway, it would seem (and I’m emphasizing the “s” word) that LaBute didn’t do anything specific to warrant the MCC termination. It seems, rather, that he just continued to write the same kind of stuff, and that post-2017 the woke comintern simply said “enough” and decided to get rid of him.
Last night I watched LaBute’s House of Darkness, an elevated horror film that uses (borrows?) themes and situations from Promising Young Woman and Midsommar. When and if it opens, House of Darkness, which costars Kate Bosworth and Justin Long, will probably be attacked as a metaphorical woman-hating horror film. Or a man-hating #MeToo horror film. Or something like that.
It’s definitely trafficking in social metaphor — #MeToo and #TimesUp and others in the women’s progressive movement looking to bring pain and terror to the male jerks of the world.
I don’t think House of Darkness does anything phenomenal. All it does is apply the basic LaBute attitude software to Promising Young Midsommar.
Long plays a typical Labute-ian sexist sleazeball bullshitter, and Bosworth (they’ve been actual, real-life lovers since last year) plays one of the Dracula sisters.
Bosworth and two other women play feminist avengers, and Long is a boozy, middle-aged version of Keanu Reeves‘ Jonathan Harker.
Unlike the bright and sunshine-filled Midsommar, LaBute’s film takes place in the dead of night inside a large, European-styled, castle-like abode (i.e., the real-life Dromborg Castle in Fayetteville, Arkansas). Suffice that horrible punishment happens to Long’s dipshit bad guy, whom no sensible woman would want to be within 100 yards of anyway.
The bottom line is that there’s barely a mention of LaBute’s film online. I searched around last night and it simply doesn’t exist except on IMDB Pro. No stills, no trailers, no nothin’. Very little on LaBute’s IMDB Pro page and nothing whatsoever on his Wikipedia page. No mention of the film on Long and Bosworth’s IMDB and Wikipedia pages.
It’s as if people on their respective staffs or teams went to some difficulty to erase any mention of this film. It’s almost unheard of for mentions of a completed but unreleased film to be this difficult to find.
Why guest programmer Claudia Puig chose to book this lost-at-sea film at the Santa Barbara Film Festival is anyone’s guess. Perhaps she decided to include it out of respect for LaBute’s reputation during his late ’90s-early aughts heyday?
Perhaps the producers tried to sell it and failed, not just theatrically but with streamers and cable stations….everyone shrugged. (Maybe.). I called a couple of producer’s reps today and they said they’d never heard of it.
But House of Darkness isn’t that bad. It’s creepy, diverting, socially thoughtful — altogether a half-decent sit.
It’s doubly weird that producers allowed the SBIFF to be the first-anywhere festival to show House of Darkness. And without a word of fanfare. They knew, of course, that people like me would see it and write about it, etc.