Review: The Dead Room
THE DEAD ROOM (R13, 78mins) Directed by Jason Stutter ★★★
A trio of ghost hunters get more than they bargained for in this solid, if unspectacular, New Zealand horror movie.
Inspired by an urban legend about an abandoned Central Otago farmhouse, the contemporary set (we know this because of the ubiquitous Apple product placement) The Dead Room offers nods to everything from Ghostbusters and Paranormal Activity to J-Horror and the works of Sam Raimi, as it treads a predictable, po-faced path, albeit with impressive production values and no little verve.
Old man of science Scott Cameron (Jeffrey Thomas), everyman Liam Andrews (Jed Brophy) and "sensitive" Holly Matthews (Laura Petersen) are our intrepid triumvirate, settling into the "off-the-grid" digs and imbibing copious amounts of hot drinks while they wait for things to go thump in the night. Sure enough, they do, firstly with unnerving regularity and then with bone-rattling intensity.
Well-paced, director and co-writer Jason Stutter's (Tongan Ninja, Predicament) film starts off as an atmospheric cross between an episode of cult British 70s sci-fi series Sapphire and Steel and the unfairly-derided 2005 Michael Keaton starrer White Noise, before transforming into something far more nightmarish in tone in the final act.
Sound is key to Dead Room's point of difference, with Plan 9 's score chiming in nicely, while dialogue plays second-fiddle to tension-building silences and building cacophonies. Much has been made of the film's acoustically disquieting Rumble Technology, but it underwhelmed during the screening I attended, although this could be as much a commentary on the difficulties of modern day projection consistency and aging multiplexes than the attempted innovation itself.
A horror clearly made by those who love the genre, The Dead Room might not linger long in the memory, but those who witness it may never look at entrance hallways the same way again.