Review: Dark Ride (2006)

Overall, the movies that comprised the "After Dark Horrorfest" from 2006 were pretty much less-than-impressive (not including the wide-release The Abandoned or the "secret" Snoop Dogg's Hood of Horror).  The only one I really, really liked was Unrest, and even it had moments of slack-jawed awfulness.  On the opposite end of the spectrum from that collection of films lies Penny Dreadful, which just failed the suspension of disbelief requirement from the very word "go".  Dark Ride sits quite happily somewhere in the middle between these two polar opposites.  It's neither the best horror film to hit celluloid, but it's also nowhere near the worst.
The plot pretty much follows some old-hat conventions of the genre: group of college students off for Spring Break make a detour to spend the night in an abandoned pier-carnival ride that was the home to a series of brutal killings some time earlier.  The killer, they know, is safely incarcerated in a local mental hospital, so what could go wrong?  And, of course, we get the requisite scenes of abuse from the psych ward...and guess what - the killer escapes!  No way!!
If the characters and the actors weren't actually so much fun (and there weren't a couple good boob scenes), this movie would find itself relegated to the back of the stack, with other crap like Horrors of War.  However, even though you feel like you've seen this movie or something similar to it a thousand times before, the actors chew through their lines and the scenes with such pure, unadulterated enjoyment that it's actually fun again.  And there are a few really great death scenes (another pre-requisite for this type of film).
The "wow, I didn't see that coming" end isn't really so much of a surprise, but it is very well-played.  The reveal itself isn't the key to it being so well-played, it's how everything pieces together that is very well-crafted.
Aside from the few moments of "What the HELL are you thinking, GET OUT!" incidents, this is a pretty solid outing, though really not "to die for" like the After Dark marketing mavens wanted you to believe.  It's a fun, light, bloody slasher film, and it really doesn't try to or pretend to be anything other than that.