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Dead Room (2015), The
THE FILM:Although this New Zealand import is competently acted, directed and shot, it offers a frustratingly dull experience that is capped with a terrible, nonsensical ending. The filmmakers cannot decide whether they are ripping off Poltergeist, creating a possession thriller, or teasing some demonic force. The biggest problem with The Dead Room is that it gives you little to no satisfaction on the journey, and certainly does not reward your patience at the finish line. Director Jason Stutter and Cinematographer Grant Atkinson create an initially moody atmosphere, but that is spoiled when it becomes clear the film has no intentions of revealing its antagonist. Repetitive and unoriginal, The Dead Room is another generic horror film best left on the shelf.
Three ghost hunters arrive at a country house looking for spooks. The group is comprised of Holly (Laura Petersen), Liam (Jed Brophy) and Scott (Jeffrey Thomas), and each has a specific duty. Each night, the house violently shakes, and Holly begins to suspect some unseen force is toying with the crew. Her cynical scientist co-workers are initially skeptical, but Liam and Scott begin witnessing the disturbances, too. This movie was obviously made on the cheap, so the audience never actually sees what is causing the chaos, though the movie suggests that psychic Holly sees whatever manifestation the force takes on. For 80 long minutes, The Dead Room spins its wheels in the mud of unoriginal, un-scary horror.
If nothing else, I was not sure what kind of mystery the film planned to explore, which almost counts as suspense. At first it seemed like a ghost story, with lots of moving chairs and tables, then the film shifts gears to suggest a more malevolent force working against the ghost hunters. Either way, The Dead Room does not have much of a plot or backstory for the horror. The end result of this repetitive, familiar formula is boredom. At no point did the film threaten to become scary. Director Stutter uses far too many soundtrack stingers and loud noises to spook his audience. I just turned the volume down and tried hard not to tune out.
One bright spot is Atkinson's cinematography. The film opens with some beautiful shots of the New Zealand landscape, and he does a nice job staging and shooting the nighttime interior scenes. I hope the end product here does not discourage him, as he proves a filmmaking talent. Less impressive is the out-of-nowhere ending, which feels tacked on and forced. So that is how you are resolving this plot, filmmakers. This cop-out conclusion feels as half-hazard as the previous 70-odd minutes, so I guess I should not have been surprised.
The 2.40:1/1080p/AVC-encoded image is sharp and deep, with good fine-object detail and texture. The dimly lit interior scenes benefit from good shadow detail, and black levels are steady. There are not many wide shots in the film, but the back of each frame is always highly visible. I noticed no digital tinkering, and only minor black crush and a few blurry pans popped up to lower the score.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix supports the intended presentation, and there is plenty of ambient noise to fill the surrounds and action effects to rumble the LFE. There is adequate dimensionality to the mix, and dialogue, effects and score are balanced appropriately. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.
PACKAGING AND EXTRAS:
This single-disc release is packed in a standard case that is wrapped in a slipcover. There are no extras.
This New Zealand horror film is direct-to-video junk with a repetitive, unoriginal plot and no scares. Skip It.
William lives in Burlington, North Carolina, and looks forward to a Friday-afternoon matinee.