Directed by Giles Daoust
Not a lot’s been said about the bizarre Belgian thriller The Room here on Dread Central, mainly because there’s not been much to say since the film made its debut at some film festivals around the world and has since been picked up for eventual distribution here in the U.S. Though the plot outline is stimulating, at the end of the day The Room is not as intriguing or frightening as you may think, due mainly to some peculiar directorial choices from helmer Giles Daoust (Last Night on Earth).
Ostensibly The Room is about a reprehensible family who are barely able to tolerate one another dealing with the fact that, all of a sudden, a door appears at the end of a hallway when there wasn’t one before. What lies beyond that door, the titular Room, is a great mystery throughout the film, but one that is sadly anticlimactic when it is finally resolved.
Daughter Melinda (Veyt) is preparing to finally move out of the house she shares with her parents, younger brother John and older brother Alex, who was born with Down’s Syndrome. She’s very pregnant as the film begins, and through a series of monochromatic flashbacks we learn that the identity of the father of her baby is one of the reasons this family is not getting along at all. Another reason would be that Melinda is essentially responsible for Alex being paralyzed, forced to spend life in a wheelchair, the result of a nasty fall down the stairs following a disturbing series of events that will likely make most viewers squeamish for all the wrong reasons.
They sit down for dinner the day before Melinda is set to leave, and one of John’s friends discovers this brand-new door on the way to the bathroom, engraved with nonsensical letters, disappearing with a scream and prompting the family to investigate. The disappearance of this boy is the first of many scenes set in The Hallway Down Which No One Can Walk Fast, one of the many hang-ups that cause The Room to drag on and on and on and, just when you think it can’t drag anymore, on for a while longer. At first one might wonder if Daoust set up the Hallway to be dreamlike, indicating that you literally could not walk down it as would happen in a dream, or if he was just padding the running time to hit feature length.
When Melinda finally enters the room, we quickly realize it is the second of those options, as it takes her almost 10 minutes to walk across a barren landscape towards a light, a scene that will at first remind you of the end of Fulci’s The Beyond but goes on for so long you will eventually get to wondering about what you’re going to have for lunch the next day.
Too many long, plodding tracking shots and too much cramming of camera and film techniques serve to drag The Room down, which is a shame because the premise has a lot of creepy promise and the cast is superb.
What might help you appreciate The Room more is if you don’t go into it looking for a disturbing, psychological scare-fest, but rather a study of the worst kind of family life you can imagine. Young brother John does nothing but torment his wheelchair-bound sibling; Mother Marie (Mignon) is so repressed she seems on the edge of a breakdown in every scene (and when it eventually hits, its definitely a dramatic highlight); father Max (Resimont) is a tortured pianist who seems to hate every single person under his roof; indeed the only two characters who seem to have genuine affection for one another are Melinda and Alex, and even that relationship is taken to places it should have never gone.
As stated the performances are top-notch throughout, but special credit should be given to Resimont as Max, a character who is chewing through scenery every time he’s on screen, with a naturally massive maw that makes his performance that much more over-the-top and enjoyable. He would have been a fantastic choice for a Nicholson-esque Joker if one were ever needed, and he wouldn’t have had to fake the big evil smile; this guy was born with it.
As a horror film, The Room could have been much more effective had it lost about 20 minutes, most of which would just be characters walking down the aforementioned hallway anyway. As a look at a morally reprehensible family, The Room could have worked on its own without the mystery door. Instead, The Room is a mashing of those two plot elements and an overall frustrating experience. Perhaps before its eventual release here some trimming can be done to quicken the pace a bit … and hopefully give some more scenes to Resimont.
3 out of 5
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