2017 | Unrated (R equivalent) | starring Natasha Henstridge, Lin Shaye | directed by Rolfe Kanefsky | 1hr 31mins |
2017 Halloween Horrorfest #1 – Halloween Horrorfest is the greatest time of the year when watching nothing but horror films during the month of October sends us on a quest like truffle pigs through streaming exclusives and direct to video schlock for diamonds in the rough. In the past this process has turned up gems like Housebound and Curse of Chucky. This time, not so successful.
We don’t get 5 minutes into The Black Room before we get Lin Shaye (playing into her post-Insidious reputation) sitting up in bed and yelling into the dark at some ghost, a white smoke monster creeping up a flight of stairs and a ghost rape.
And it won’t be the first ghost rape, Black Room pivots around scene after scene where usual haunted house kills are replaced with sequences where an invisible bicurious sexy specter either seduces or rapes everyone that walks through this house. It might be disturbing if it wasn’t so ridiculous, it might be so-bad-it’s-funny if it weren’t so dull and restrained. It’s so sexed-up and filled with childish innuendo it would seem like a soft-core Skinemax movie were it not for the appearance of real actors like Shaye, Natasha Henstridge, and Dominique Swain.
Truly, this entire article could be written about the movie’s wild opening title sequence: a crazy tonal right turn after your typical horror movie opening kill where tarot card symbols and various generic demonic images fly across the screen like star wipes in a brightly lit high school Powerpoint presentation set to original music that sounds like the theme song to a 70s buddy-cop TV show. The opening titles even seem to have their own design team in the credits. Really, Black Room is an original score (credited to “Savant”) in search of a story. The music has an energy level that nothing on screen can match.
Who knows why Henstridge and Shaye agreed to be in this movie. Henstridge is not bad in this, she’s the only person on set that seems like a living, breathing human being instead of an actor visibly reciting memorized lines. It does seem like everyone else in this micro-budget indie are friends of the man behind the camera, Rolfe Kanefsky (of the AfterDark Horrorfest film Nightmare Man), based on the acting caliber on display from everyone other than Henstridge. After delivering a few sex jokes between spouses Henstridge’s husband Paul (Lukas Hassal) becomes possessed by the thing in the black room and spends the rest of the film talking with a wooden cadence and psychically attacking people, incapacitating women with writhing orgasmic fits. Oye this is awful. He wants to channel sexual energy and take over the world with a demon hybrid. The World Saving Hybrid trope rearing it’s tired head again.
We also get: a phallic impaling, a neighbor guy so sex-starved by a wife (Swain) who demands he lose 10 pounds he horns around Peter, a creepy plumber eye-banging Henstridge, some nonsense medallion device that supposedly wards off the demon (that the movie offers no mythology around), a 70s teenage demon conjuring party and a throw-away line about the house going on the market fully furnished to explain why the new homeowners don’t have to move in. None of it has a tone of ironic self parody.
In the third act, The Black Room suddenly decides to become a movie, building a set piece of bloody practical creature effects not unlike the John Carpenter homage film The Void from earlier this year. It looks good and is clearly where all the money and creativity went. It also builds to a scene that tries to create tension by having Henstridge try desperately to unlock the front door of her own house from the inside out. Oh and not one but two final buttons, one that makes no sense and another that is totally useless. It is ironic though that Henstridge stars in this, best known for Species where she played an alien who seduced her human victims, now being chased around in a gender-reversal by a demon Incubus who seduces his female victims. Well, seduce is a nuanced word. Ghost rape.