The Disappointments Room (film review by Frank Ochieng).
So here we go again…another derivative suburban haunted house horror showcase featuring a harried heroine’s beleaguered state of mind from the wicked walls within her household’s creepy confines. The aptly entitled ‘The Disappointments Room’ is the latest flaccid floorboard frightfest that tries to turn its predictable creaks into gloomy gold. Instead, ‘The Disappointments Room’ is yet another redundant devious domicile drama that clumsily blends stagy supernatural suspense with victimised mental illness overtones.
Unlike the recent hair-raising, house haunting gem such as David F. Sandberg’s well-received horror home thriller ‘Lights Out’, co-writer/director D.J. Caruso (‘Eagle Eye’, ‘Disturbia’) never solidly establishes a workman-like psychology that gives his lop-sided eerie narrative an imaginative sense of insinuation and trauma or flowing raw nervousness. Instead, ‘The Disappointments Room’ merely consists of tepid teasing that only a semi-riveting psychological-horror can provide.
It is a known fact that ‘The Disappointments Room’ sat on shelves with no release date in sight in the wake of its film distributor’s (Relatively Media) financial woes back in 2015. Well, some may suggest that this toothless horror house sideshow should have continued to remain shelved, since it brings absolutely no distinctive scares or challenging home-bound havoc to the proverbial terrorising table.
Kate Beckinsale, last seen in the critically acclaimed Jane Austen-inspired ‘Love & Friendship’, is totally out of her element in this banal bump-in-the-night offering. Beckinsale plays Dana, a grieving wife and mother that decides to pack up from Brooklyn and move to the country in North Carolina to ease the emotional pain in the aftermath of her deceased baby daughter’s passing. Joining Dana is her husband David (Mel Raido) and young son Lucas (Duncan Joiner), hoping to escape their brand of psychological sadness as well. Thus, architect Dana and her family are heading to a sprawling yet deteriorating rural estate that they purchased as their idyllic getaway from urban life. Naturally, Dana is able to apply her professional know-how flourishes to the dilapidated property she now calls home.
Predictably, the new homestead has some unique mystery that Dana eventually uncovers in the form of a hidden attic room for which is opened by the missing key. Consequently, all hell breaks loose as the nightmarish result of Dana’s forbidden curiosity. Now the country manor has become a hallucinating hellhole for the imperiled Dana. Specifically, the raucous room in question is the center of disturbing disillusionment experienced by the disoriented Dana. Soon, Dana is surrounded by freakish apparitions that pop up randomly. Even the ominous ghostly sighting of the house’s former owner, Judge Blacker (Gerald McRaney) and his satanic black dog, plagues poor Dana’s psyche. When Dana is not being twitchy over the demonic spirits, she has to tolerate the local handyman Ben’s (Lucas Till) irksome flirtatious come-on while making repairs on her home.
Dana is understandably distraught as the Disappointments Room has effectively bombarded her tortured soul. She tries desperately to convey to her family the torment of the household threatening spirits but they dismiss her claims as nothing more than a major leftover residual breakdown regarding the baby daughter they lost so tragically. Can Dana overcome her personal crisis for releasing these retaliatory shadowy images that are causing her mental instability? Will she be able to ease her suffering of a loved one’s loss while tackling the sinister forces that persist in her menacing manor? How can she protect her precious boy Lucas when, as a mother, she failed to prevent the passing of her aforementioned baby girl?
‘The Disappointments Room’ co-scripting duties are shared by Caruso and former Fox-TV ‘Prison Break’ actor Wentworth Miller. They aimlessly tack on the unexplained spooky nemesis and attempt to foster Beckinsale’s Dana with escalated psychological burdens. The problem is that the toothless creepy haunted house cliches and Beckinsale’s motherly vulnerabilities are sluggishly presented on a prolonged whim. There does not seem to be enough structured and genuine thrills and chills to elevate ‘The Disappointments Room’ beyond it being deemed as another perfunctory, repetitive housebound hell-raiser joining the genre. Although Beckinsale tries to give credible heft to her character Dana’s frazzled misery, she simply comes off as a thinly veiled worrywart.
One cannot fault Caruso’s directorial diligence in trying to ambitiously solidify ‘The Disappointments Room’ as a percolating psychological-horror project by incorporating all the moving parts of Dana’s fragile mindset of love and loss, her property’s problematic infestation of intimidating ghouls and unwanted advances from bothersome cretins such as Till’s insufferable handyman, Ben. However, these revolving sub-plots never seem to effortless blend together on the same level therefore causing a chaotic choppiness to the film’s edgy rhythm. For American boob tube fanatics, it is a nostalgic kick to see supporting veteran television personalities participate such as McRaney (‘Simon & Simon’, ‘Major Dad’, ‘Designing Women’), Celia Weston (‘Alice’) and Joely Fisher (‘Ellen, ‘Til Death) but they and other performers are inexplicably wasted in this hackneyed horror dud.
It is safe to predict that the sub-par ‘The Disappointments Room’ will not make anybody forget celebrated cinematic housing aberrations such as ‘The Amityville Horror’ or even ‘Panic Room’ anytime soon.
The Disappointments Room (2016)
1 hr. 40 mins.
Starring: Kate Beckinsale, Mel Raido, Gerald McRaney, Lucas Till, Duncan Joiner, Joely Fisher, Celia Weston and Michael Landes
Directed and Co-Written by: D.J. Caruso
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Horror/Psychological Thriller/Supernatural Drama
Critic’s Rating: ** stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2016