Welcome to Dale’s House! Make yourself at home, watch out for the dripping ooze, and never mind the eerie whispers...
...Dale’s not here right now. Probably still a bit tired from the violent crime he committed in the opening scene. Instead, Ben (Matt Kirsch) and Nilly (Julie Lake, Orange is the New Black) will be your hosts as they house-sit for the mysterious homeowner. Having premiered during the SXSW Episodic Pilot Competition, director Kat Whalen brings us Dale’s House. Secrets and (possibly?) the supernatural come together in one small place known as Dale’s House, where it is up to Ben and Nilly to keep the home in good shape and maybe even figure out some of the bizarre mysteries. The estranged friends might rely on the new space (and the income) to escape their troubles, but the house only adds to their problems.
From the beginning, Dale’s House shows one strange occurrence after the next, which will hopefully lead to many fun storylines to follow. After going three years without speaking to each other, failed author Ben reunites with best friend Nilly, who is currently very pregnant with her horrible husband’s loin fruit. Both friends need an escape from their lives and have nowhere else to go, so Dale’s house becomes their last resort.
After a brief reunion, kooky neighbor Dana Denise (Sandi McCree, The Wire) shows up and lets the pair into the house, but not before they perform a strange entrance ritual, per the instructions left by Dale. Neither guest seems entirely sure what the purpose of their stay is, and Dana does not offer any information to clear up the situation. In fact, Double D avoids some questions while intensely answering others. Neither response comes off as very helpful or reassuring.
As they get settled in, Ben gets calls reminding him of his dwindling career and cash flow, while Nilly makes sure to keep her little secret stashed away. After only moments alone in the house, Nilly gets a fright while showering and Ben hallucinates a unicorn in the backyard. Or does he? Some kind of sap substance drops from the vents. But all houses have their quirks. Straying from other shows or movies which focus on spooky buildings, Dale’s house is just a modern and normal looking home. No Victorian architecture, creaking doors, or swinging chandeliers. Just a small two bedroom with a simple décor no different than any house listed on Airbnb.
Benny Boop and Nilly did not speak for years but pick up right where they left off, all issues washed away. The teasing and name calling shows their bond and the actors genuinely seem to enjoy each other’s company. The back and forth between the two creates a comfortable vibe and will remind many viewers of interactions with their best friend. Even when moments of fear arise, bits of humor cut through the tension to remind us the show falls more into the comedy territory than horror.
Whispering sounds coming from the ceiling and a threatening phone call invests the viewer in the story of the home, and the playful interactions between the main characters offer promises of humor even in a creepy house. Kirsch and Lake offer a lot of fun situations to look forward to, but the limited location makes this critic wonder how much could happen in Dale’s house. Will Ben and Nilly stay with the house throughout the duration of the show, or will various guests rotate through? Either way, the story and the characters pique a curiosity for what will happen next.
The plot offers loads of backstory accompanied with mysteries, which makes Dale’s House a fun pilot, but I really hope the story expands its focus beyond just two people stuck inside a strange house. We have had plenty of those claustrophobic interactions over the past year, after all. While watching the pilot you will find yourself saying “what the hell?” more than once, but with the perplexation comes plenty of giggles. Do not expect any jump scares and just sit back, relax into Ben and Nilly’s buddy relationship, and make yourself at home in Dale’s House.
By Amylou Ahava
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