Despite being a film featuring ghosts and possession, Down a Dark Hall is not all that scary but is somewhat suspenseful at times and weaves a decent mystery, if a bit predictable.
Starring AnnaSophia Robb and Uma Thurman as the leads, the former the protagonist and the latter the villain, it does follow a certain familiar formula which makes it easy to guess as to what is coming next and yet a little enjoyable because of it, like a comfort food one has had on multiple occasions. While this might ruin the picture for some, it does end up being enjoyable and the motivation for Thurman’s character, once it is revealed, is almost understandable though her methods are reprehensible.
It all takes place at a private boarding school of which Thurman’s Madame Duret is the headmistress and where Robb’s Kit is sent as a last resort. There she ends up meeting other students in the same sort of predicament, all of whom balk at being told they are special but who are willing to give it a go in the hopes their lives might find a little meaning. As it turns out, they do begin to exhibit certain talents and it is not long before viewers are able to figure out the reason for such. Tension builds between the various parties and soon enough, the horror makes itself known though it is not so much from the ghosts who inhabit the estate but the teachers who perpetrate their machinations upon the unknowing students.
Robb and Thurman put in a good performance as does the rest of the cast though with there being five rebellious girls of varying natures present, one would expect a little more acting-out, some sort of inquisitiveness from them as to why they are able to do what they do as it all unfolds. For a group of ‘bad girls’, they fail to act as they are introduced, simply accepting the rules set before them and going along with what they are told and that at the very least, is a little disappointing. Altogether though, even if it is a bit subdued, the film manages to hold the interest of its audience as the mystery and the why of it all, is slowly unveiled.
As it is, Down a Dark Hall makes for a pleasant way to kill off a couple of hours. It is not all that innovative but the direction is solid and the story compelling enough that despite any faults, it will keep its viewers watching and quite possibly entertained.
3 out of 5