Neil LaBute returns with House of Darkness, the flip side of his indie movie In The Company of Men
Neil LaBute’s debut feature film In the Company of Men (1997) hit independent cinema like a sledgehammer. In the Company of Men is a portrait of male toxicity. It’s about two business men, Chad and Howard, who decide to target Christine for ridicule and abuse simply for being a nice person.
In The Company of Men
If Chad, played to perfection by Aaron Eckhart, were a real person he would have probably succeeded in business through pure narcissism right up until the Me Too movement shattered his life. But that’s not the reality of Chad’s world. There are no penalties, Chad does not get his comeuppance. The only people who pay a price are Howard, his de facto lap dog, and Christine. However, it is the world Hap lives in.
LaBute returns to familiar territory with House of Darkness. Hap (Justin Long) drives Mina (Kate Bosworth) home from a bar after a night out drinking with friends. Who asked who is up for debate, but what’s not up for debate are Hap’s intentions when Mina invites him into her home, which is more of a castle than house.
In The Company of Women
House of Darkness, like many of LaBute’s movies, is heavy on the dialog. Dialog is what drives the movie forward. It’s clever, sharp, and delivered in a way that feels like it’s not even acting. It’s used as a tool to get to the truth. For everything Hap says Mina manages to pull the truth out of him. He says he’s not married, but when pressed he’s separated. He says he’s not a liar, but admits that he’s a “fibber.” When pressed he admits he only wanted to have sex with Mina.
When did Long become the scummy guy in horror movies? In Barbarian, Long plays a director who has sexual assault charges pending against him. He plays that role with abandon. You really believe the accusations are true. Hap is a little more reserved in his attitude towards women. He doesn’t come right out and say what he thinks. He’s quick with a joke to lessen the toxicity of his comments. The truth has to be pulled out of him by Mina and her sisters Lucy and Nora. If those first two names sound familiar they should be.
The castle Mina lives in with her sister and the castles the sisters have scattered across the country may not clue you into what’s really going on. The dream Hap has of walking in a cave he can’t get out of passing a pile of men’s shoes may also not clue you into the big picture. The names Mina and Lucy should absolutely clue you into at least who and what the sisters are and what they’re going to do to Hap.
Is House of Darkness LaBute’s answer to In the Company of Men? Chad walks away unscathed never having to pay a price for his misdeeds. Hap is made from the same male white privilege cloth as Chad. If we were to see Hap’s life before meeting Mina it may have mirrored Chad’s life- cheating on his wife, thinking the worst things about women, using people to get what he wants.
It may be wish fulfillment, what movies aren’t though, that there’s a price to pay for toxic masculinity, that men who use their positions of power to take advantage of women will face justice. In LaBute’s House of Darkness these wishes are granted. Hap pays the price Chad and so many other men have never had to pay. It’s, pardon the pun, a bloody good ending.