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Film Review: The Disappointments Room (2016)

SYNOPSIS:

A mother and her young son release unimaginable horrors from the attic of their rural dream home.

REVIEW:

Sometimes a movie’s title is so apt that it’s almost scary. This could be because the filmmakers carefully chose the name of their work to give you an idea of what you’re about to watch. Other times, it’s completely unintentional, and The Disappointments Room is one of those movies. By the time the end credits rolled, it definitely lived up to the “Disappointments” part of the title.

Kate Beckinsale, trying to prove she can do more than wear tight leather and beat up werewolves in movies, plays the character Dana. Dana recently suffered a mental breakdown after the accidental death of her infant daughter. She and her husband move out to the country in the hopes of getting a new start. The large estate they bought is a bit of a fixer-upper, and Dana plans on restoring the property.

While investigating the house, she finds a room that is not shown on any of the blueprints. Shortly after the discovery, she begins to experience paranormal events. Her husband and young son haven’t come across anything unusual, so they’re skeptical of the veracity of her claims. They both become increasingly concerned that Dana’s mental state is deteriorating, and her refusal to take her medication only deepens their belief she’s mentally cracking.

While disappointing is a very good way to describe this movie, I think a more fitting title would be “Completely Derivative Drek”. If you’ve seen any movies involving hauntings in the last 15 years, you’ve pretty much have already seen this movie. It doesn’t do anything completely new to the point that it seems like director DJ Caruso had a checklist of things to put in his film. You get the same old shots of a ghost standing behind our main characters while they’re completely unaware of the presence. You get the same situation where only one person believes something wrong with the house while no one else does. It even uses the same plot device of having our main lead creating a questionable narrative since she has a history of mental disorder. These are things that have been done to death, and they’re not handled in any new or interesting ways here. At this point, we’ve gone beyond beating a dead horse and DJ Caruso is now just bludgeoning a rotted horse carcass into mush.

Of course, I did consider the possibility that this could have been the case of the director having a vision for the movie only to have studio interference hamstring his efforts. To give him the benefit of the doubt, and since I couldn’t remember anything else he’d done, I looked at what other movies he’s done. Not only have I forgotten he was the director of some films I’ve seen in the past, but I almost forgot the movies themselves. With movies like Disturbia, which was a poor man’s Rear Window at best, and Taking Lives, which was another thriller involving an investigator getting into an affair with the main suspect of a murder investigation, it looks like Caruso is just a master of making derivative movies. If you’re a film studio that wants to play it safe without taking any chances or doing anything new, this guy is the director for you. He adds nothing and brings nothing to the table beyond making sure everything is slickly shot.

Some sloppy editing only further hurts the overall end product. To give you an example, there’s a minor character that’s introduced that seems to have some knowledge of the local history (which makes sense, she’s looks like she’s 1,000 years old). She’s the quintessential, and trite, exposition character. You’ve seen this kind of character before, the one who happens to know enough about the main character’s sitaution to help further shed some light at what’s going on. There’s a scene during the climax of the movie where she seems to make an important discovery. She tries to contact Dana but has trouble getting her on the phone, so we see the old lady get in her car to, presumably, go to Dana’s house. However, this is never followed up on, and we never see the character again. It’s like another scene involving the old lady was cut from the movie entirely. If that is the case, why leave the shots of her racing to Dana’s house in at all? It’s moments like this that makes me wonder if the editor was drinking on the job.

If Kate Beckinsale is trying to prove she is a more capable actress than pumping out sequels to the Underworld franchise, her efforts are wasted here. She does a decent enough job in her role and hiding her British accent, but it doesn’t do much to prove she’s capable of carrying a movie on her own. While everyone is serviceable in their roles, the great shame is that Gerald McRaney gives a great performance in a film that doesn’t deserve the effort he put in. His Judge Blacker character is a threatening, sinister presence that shows pure malice in most of his scenes. If you’re familiar with his earlier work (television series like Simon & Simon and Major Dad), he’s playing the opposite of the kind of characters that once defined his career. You’d be pleasantly surprised to see what he can do, but this movie is not worth your wasting the time just to see him.

If there’s a positive, it’s that the house and the surrounding property is effectively eerie. The cinematography is cleverly used to make the whole place seem like a foreboding place heavy with dark history and even darker intent. It’s the kind of place you’d have to pay me 6 figures just to get near it after dark. There’s a great atmosphere created with the location.

With that said, I don’t recommend this movie at all. Avoid it. If someone gives you a BluRay or DVD of it, break the disc into pieces, bury it, and salt the earth. You should also ask that person what you’ve done to tick them off. If it shows up on a streaming service, don’t give into temptation and play it. Do yourself a favor and watch something else.

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