‘There is an intruder. It’s you.’
The movie stars Jed Brophy (Braindead; King Kong; Nori in The Hobbit movies), Jeffrey Thomas and Laura Petersen.
The Dead Room was inspired by an early 1970s urban legend surrounding a farmhouse in Central Otago.
When a terrified family flees a desolate southern New Zealand farmhouse, two cynical scientists and a young psychic are sent to investigate their claims of a haunting. There they encounter a powerful spirit that will protect the house’s secrets at all costs…
Since at least 1963’s The Haunting, “scientifically” based paranormal investigators have been a part of the horror genre. Reality TV caught the night vision camera bug in the early two thousands and hasn’t let go of that ghost hunting coattail yet. But all this clinical probing seems to be a bit off as well as blandly repetitive in most situations; nothing is ever really resolved in the Reality TV world of the numinous, with their muffled EVP mumblings, floating bits of dust purported to be forlorn spirits, and jolting double-takes, no matter the oaths earnestly offered up by the participants.
This is where The Dead Room tends to break ranks, beat the odds, and resemble Kneale’s discerning telefilm about the scientific investigation of the paranormal; make no mistake, the loosey-goosey discarnate side of things is definitely present in this film in the form of Holly (Laura Petersen), the barely out of her teens medium, but the systematic machinery of Scott (Jeffrey Thomas), the lead investigator, and Liam (Jed Brophy), Scott’s tech man, is the actual driving force behind the probe. Liam and Holly are primarily there as the heart, the gateway for the viewer’s entrance into the plot.
Following the obligatory establishing shots of landscapes and striking vistas leading into tighter shots of their arrival at the abandoned farmhouse, Holly becomes the focus; she’s hesitant to get out of the vehicle, looking very much like the de rigueur teen girl with a somber chip on her shoulder. It’s only after she’s entered the house, wandering slowly from room to room, looking pensive yet inquisitive, that we discover she’s no common teenage grotesque, but a highly sensitive medium brought in to act as something of a canary in a coal mine.
Occasionally, the actions of some of the characters conflict and contradict slightly with what came in previous scenes, but if you’re just taking the film as a simple old-fashioned spooker, this can be overlooked. Stutter’s direction is sturdy and admirable, leaning toward utilitarian, getting the job done without much ornamentation.
The acting by Thomas and Brophy is flawless and clean, showing their years of experience. Petersen, on the other hand, is out of her league when placed beside highly skilled professionals such as the other two, and it shows terribly; she seems awkward in front of the camera and occasionally unsure of herself and her choices; her delivery is frequently amateurish and in desperate need of polishing. The cinematography by Grant Atkinson, on the other hand, is sufficiently muted to the point of enhancing the dinginess of the house being investigated; Atkinson skillfully works to the strengths of the set and the story.
Unfortunately, the film fizzles just a bit at the end, leaving the viewer in need of a clearer explanation of the room of the title; the ending seems tacked on as if it were an afterthought, as opposed to being the focus of the film. Although not as strong a production as Kneale’s The Stone Tape, it does offer up enough malevolence and creeping perniciousness to satisfy those looking for an evening’s shiver.
Ben Spurling, MOVIES & MANIA
“The Dead Room is not to be watched while groggy. It won’t necessarily be what puts you to sleep, though it doesn’t go out of its way to jolt you from dozing if that’s where you’re already headed. The movie may not be particularly remarkable either, but the effort invested is well above average, and that warrants some measure of admiration for the filmmakers.” Culture Crypt
“As the film progresses and the powerful spirit within the house begins to come to the fore, The Dead Room enters the rare territory that so few horror movies seem capable of occupying – it’s actually scary. It seems ironic how I write this weekly column, yet the ‘s’ word seems to be such a sparsely used adjective. The whole movie thrives on its simplicity; the tiny cast, the one location and the austere fights.” The Schlock Pit
The Dead Room was released in New Zealand on October 31, 2015.
In North America, where it is distributed on VOD by IFC Midnight, a Blu-ray/DVD was released on September 6, 2016 by IFC Midnight/Scream Factory.