Down a Dark Hall, at the beginning, knows what it wants to achieve and it doesn’t hold back in going for it. The film sets everything up quickly and efficiently – from the characters to the mystery surrounding Blackwood. It does this in a way that the film doesn’t then suffer; the film may get to the point but it does it well – the audience still feels for the characters, the questions around Blackwood are interesting and the viewer wants answers. On the other hand, as the film progresses the tone begins to feel a little muddled – it’s like it’s half teenage gothic fantasy and half full-fledged supernatural horror. This mix occasionally works but never fully fulfils either side- you’re either left wishing it was more suspenseful and scary or you’re left wishing it were less. This can leave the viewer intermittently bored, but for the most part it’s entertaining enough and achieves what it wants to.
In terms of character, the film does a good job, apart from a few of the girls who blend into one by the end, the really main characters do stand out, and the journey the main girl Katherine (played by AnnaSophia Robb) goes on is an interesting and emotional one. Whilst the middle for me was a tad jumbled the beginning and the very end of Katherine’s story was entertaining and moving, complete with decent acting. In fact the acting was largely decent all round, Uma Thurman felt a tad wasted as the weird headmistress though and whilst not bad her accent just came off slightly weird.
Technically wise I wasn’t overly impressed unfortunately. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the film did an alright job at creating suspense and keeping you on edge when need be, but it wasn’t utilised nearly enough for my taste. When it came to the other parts of the film, again it was alright but nothing to write home about. The cinematography was a little boring, the editing was rather choppy and I thought the music could’ve been a bit more exciting. I don’t want to be harsh because I did enjoy this film, but I think it could have been a lot better.
All in all, Down a Dark Hall is a fine attempt at a suspenseful gothic fantasy but just lacked conviction in the horror elements. That is of course a matter of taste; if you are a teenager into the gothic genre and fantasy I think you will enjoy yourself. Despite it’s flaws this film is fun, even if it does lose itself in the middle, and I would recommend it. 2.5/5