"Ambitious YA EuroGothic That Nearly Gets
I think that about covers it. The 18 certificate you can see on the box cover up there is certainly unwarranted - if I was the BBFC I would have given this a 12. Perhaps the girls' school setting and classic EuroHorror feel to this one had the particular censor in question reminiscing for older, ruder and gorier times.
So yes, DOWN A DARK HALL is neither sexy nor gory (in case you were wondering and now hopefully you won't be disappointed if / when you watch it). The story concerns naughty teenager Kit Gordy (AnnaSophia Robb) who gets sent to an out of the way boarding school where she discovers the only other students are four girls of around the same age.
The headmistress is Madame Duret (Uma Thurman at her most Alida Valli-esque) and she encourages them in their studies of music, maths, art and poetry. Pretty soon each girl is starting to excel at one of these disciplines, with Kit becoming a surprisingly good pianist.
Are the constant references to a talented composer who died before finishing his masterwork relevant? Why is another girl driven to paint masterpieces and sign them with someone else's initials? And are those ghosts that we're seeing in a corner of the retina kind of way actually real?
DOWN A DARK HALL boasts a screenplay that's lots of good old gothic supernatural fun and an intriguing cast with some familiar faces including Rebecca Front (BBC comedy stalwart), Pip Torrens (A View From a Hill), Jim Sturgeon (71) and Rosie Day (every Paul Hyett film). It's also got a fabulous old-school classical music score courtesy of Victor Reyes (GRAND PIANO).
Unfortunately the one problem the film has is the direction. DOWN A DARK HALL is a film that would really have benefitted from a Dario Argento approach, because the story is daft enough and the setting glorious enough that a considerable degree of stylistic panache is needed to put all that together to best effect. Sadly Rodrigo Cortes (BURIED) does a thoroughly reasonable workmanlike job, but that's about it, and that's a shame because with a truly mad film-maker this could have been a work of genius.
As it is, DOWN A DARK HALL is still worth a look, if only to imagine what might have been. Lionsgate's UK DVD is bare bones.
Rodrigo Cortes' DOWN A DARK HALL is out on DVD from Lionsgate on Monday 22nd October 2018