It’s funny how circumstances of the world can alter our perception. On its face, The Room could be a by-the-book horror film like any other. However, in the time of COVID-19, when many of us are (pessimistically) prisoners in our own homes, a warped tale about being trapped seems to hit a little harder. And more effectively.
In The Room, a young couple seeks to start life anew in a remote country house. In the midst of their fixer-upper project, they discover a strange room that has the ability to grant wishes. What starts as shallow wishes for trinkets and extravagances takes a turn when the young wife wishes a baby boy into existence. As their circumstances become increasingly bizarre, the couple begins to wonder if the Room has trapped them forever.
Directed by Christian Volckman in his live-action feature debut, the Shudder Original film stars Olga Kurylenko (Quantum of Solace, The Death of Stalin) and Kevin Janssens (Revenge). It has received a warm reception on the festival circuit, taking Best Feature winner at Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival and Stasbourg European Fantastic Film Festival, and has become one of Shudder’s most-watched original films.
The Room starts off as so many promising horror flicks do: with a young, optimistic couple that has just moved into a grand and remote fixer-upper. What could go wrong? As we seasoned horror fans know, absolutely everything. The Room hits all of the familiar narrative beats of your typical entry to the genre. Couple discovers the titular room. Couple learns that the room has powers. At first, it’s all fun and games and then enter THE PLOT. In this case, after several failed pregnancies, the couple opts to work around fate and wish a bundle of joy into their lives.
The film takes on a “monkey’s paw” approach of adding a twinge of a curse to each of the room’s blessings. If the thing that was wished for ever leaves the house, it will begin to rapidly age and decay until nothing is left… yes, this includes the new baby. The narrative of The Room feels incredibly familiar because it does follow genre expectations faithfully, but that’s not necessarily to the film’s detriment.
In many ways, the familiarity of The Room makes it feel like a safe watch. You know what you’re getting and so you accept it with open arms. While the performances and premise are minimalist and simplistic (nothing necessarily to write home about), the twisted possibility of a room that can create your deepest desires adds a touch of originality that’s quite welcome.
While Shudder is a streaming service specifically for horror fans, The Room lands more as a tragedy than horror. It’s a misery piece. The circumstances of the film roll out with great sadness instead of fear and horror, and the film does not do much to earn its spot in the horror genre until the very final act. It’s the dejected relative of 2016’s The Boy.
Speaking of the ending…
The film attempts and makes an earnest effort to discuss questions of personhood and quality of life. The Room endeavors to intelligently and effectively broach these topics, but never quite puts a good foot forward on them. The “horror” element of this film is that The Room takes a weird fucking turn when it dramatically ages its creepy child character.
The Room goes from a tragic, but philosophical exploration of humanity to a creepy teen son suddenly developing a psychosis and attempting to assault his mother. It’s cinematic whiplash. You see what they’re going for, but the viewer is left wondering if this is poor pacing or a screenplay that was unsure of what it wanted to be. Of course, the film ends on a twist and sequel potential, but this critic doesn’t quite buy in.
In spite of its messy third act, The Room is not a lost cause. What it does well, it does really well, and the trapped concept makes it a perfect watch on one of these lonely evenings in. It comes with a soft recommendation.
Movie Score: 3/5