Monday, June 19, 2006

Film Review - Room 6

I received an advanced copy of this film from Anchor Bay Entertainment and, to be honest, was a bit apprehensive. Generally, ‘direct to video’ equates to ‘really sucks’. My second thought beyond this was, great cast, but did they just do a low budget horror flick for a paycheck?

Well, after watching Room 6, I’ve got to say that I was reasonably impressed by a well put together horror flick.

Considering that most of the filthy offal that the Hollywood studios is putting out is just badly done, PG-13 rated, unsuccessful rehashes of good horror movies; it’s up to us true horror fans to find good horror anyway we can. The independent market works best, but some of the smaller studios are doing a good job too. I think Anchor Bay is doing some good stuff.

Anyway, on to Room 6. When I received the DVD, the first thing I noticed was no MPAA rating. ‘Uh-oh,’ I thought, ‘Not good.’. Fortunately, this movies is an R-rated flick and I wasn’t forced to wallow through a watered down studio attempt to get some preteens into the seats at a movie theater. Here, let me put it another way in which I’m certain I can assure you it’s not just another teen film… all I need to say is; hot, naked, lesbian nurses making out whilst drizzling blood all over themselves.

But we’ll talk more about that later.

The plot of the movie is pretty straightforward. Amy (played by Christine Taylor from Anchorman, Dodgeball, and The Brady Bunch. You may also know her as Ben Stiller’s wife.) is a schoolteacher with issues. She is living with her boyfriend Nick (Shane Brolly, whom you may remember sulking around in Underworld like a vampire with a case of blue balls for Selene.). Nick seems like a nice enough guy, especially considering he proposes to Amy within the first five or so minutes of the film. Christine immediately blows him off, and at this point I thought I wasn’t going to like her character very much.

After blowing nice Nick off, we see her talking to a student named Melissa (Chloe Moretz). Melissa fills the now common horror movie role of ‘the creepy kid who has some preternatural otherworld connection’. Her sole job is to stand around, act creepy, and try to channel Haley Joel Osmont, Dakota Fanning, and that creepy blond girl from The 4400. It is at this point that things start to go wrong for Amy.

That night, after being picked up by nice Nick, they have an argument and as they barrel through an intersection, they are involved in an accident. Nick, and the passenger from the other vehicle are rushed away by paramedics who don’t tell Amy or the other vehicle’s driver where their injured loved ones are being taken. Amy then teams up with the other driver, Lucas (Jerry O’Connell; AKA the fat kid from Stand By Me; and the now grown up dude from Sliders and Crossing Jordan) And they quickly discover that their loved ones have been taken to a hospital named St. Rosemary’s that doesn’t exist - anymore.

So what works about this movie? I think, in a word, it’s the fact that the movie was made by fans of the genre. The way this movie was filmed was done beautifully, but what else could one expect from the same cinematographer who did the original Halloween? As the plot progresses, Amy starts to have flashes of horrific scenes and demons that make her question her sanity. The photography, combined with the excellent makeup effects by Robert Hall, were beautifully jarring and scary. Especially effective were the scenes in the haunted hospital at the climax. Although it was obvious that, due to budget constraints, they used the same section of hospital hallway for all the scenes; the film crew did a great job of making it seem like it was more expansive. In these scenes the lights were constantly flickering and, when between darkness and light things would suddenly appear, it was good for the occasional jump scare. Whether you consider this a cheap trick by the filmmakers or not, you’ve got to give them props for using it, using it well, and going with what works.

Also, and probably the best part of the movie, were the scenes with poor nice Nick as he languished in his hospital bed. The weirdness of the hospital staff, and the escalating realization on his part that he was thigh deep into some unexplained shit were perfectly done. Besides the previously mentioned and gratuitous lesbian bloodlust scene (woo-hoo!), there was a beautiful scene where he is alone in his bed in the dark and he hears disturbing sounds. He flicks on a flashlight to find his roommate being feasted upon by the same evil nurses.

It’s also gratifying to see, like I said before, a film by fans. The documentary on the special features bears this out. The director, writers, and producers gush about the little things that make this a horror fan dream. There’s a great cameo by Kane Hodder, and the boiler room location used in later scenes is the same boiler room that Wes Craven used for Freddy Krueger in Nightmare on Elm Street. And, in the hospital, they threw in a zombie scene. That’s always a great way to worm your way into Doctor Zombie’s cold, undead heart.

What didn’t work for me with this movie though were some smaller things that could easily be overlooked. For instance, there was no gratuitous nude scene with Christine Taylor. I’ll let that slide, but I gotta say I’m disappointed. I also found that the filmmakers made the choice to throw in what I like to call the ‘herky-jerky spooky crawl effect’. You know what one I’m talking about, right? It’s the same effect that was cool in The Ring and The Grudge, but is now becoming de rigeour for any new horror flick. It’s like the bullet time effect from The Matrix, or the morphing cgi from T2. Afterwards, any special effects department with a Macintosh and the new, cool software were using it in every movie. What was cool became blasé.

And the random crazy demon moments with Christine Taylor’s character were a bit overdone. It lost its effectiveness. If the filmmakers had toned it down some, and instead of making everybody she met turn into a demon when nobody else was looking, it would have been more suspenseful. Think Jacob’s Ladder. In that case, you were left with a ‘Did I just see that?’ feeling.

Also, the twists, weren’t that surprising for anyone used to the genre. In fact, they were pretty heavy handed with their foreshadowing, which I find a little insulting. Filmmakers, and horror filmmakers in particular, need to start trusting that their audiences are smart enough and savvy enough to figure things out themselves. And, the final big twist in the movie gave it a very spiritual and uplifting message. According to the documentary in the special features, this was intentional. I don’t know if I’m too jaded or have too dark a sensibility, but I didn’t like this aspect. It detracted from the horror. I do need to say though, that it wasn’t so bad as to ruin an already good horror film.

Finally, I wanted to make a comment about the score for this film. I watched the entire credits and saw that no one was credited for it. I found the soundtrack, combined with the manic scenery, especially good. Whoever did the score deserves credit for it because it was appropriate and pleasingly spooky.

So, I would recommend Room 6 as a good rental movie for a date. It’s not a gore-fest, but it hits all the right notes in terms of the limited gore it does give. Especially with the hot nurses. Mmmm… flesh eating nurses…

Doctor Zombie’s rating: 3 out of 5 Chomped Brains

1 comment:

Becca said...

I saw the preview for this in front of one of the Masters of Horror discs and was curious thanks for the detailed review.