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Wednesday, September 14, 2016

The Disappointments Room (2016) Horror

The Disappointments Room (2016) - When this film showed up at my theater this week without any advertising at all I wondered about the quiet launch. Often this lack of promotional money is one of two things, either the studio, in this case Rogue, is hoping early buzz from the few people who wander across the film will make worth their while to sink more cash into it. The other less promising option is that the film did not test particularly well and Rogue just is dumping it on the market trying to recoup some of the fifteen million it spent making it. Seeing that the lead actress Kate Beckinsale is a pretty well known quantity I have to think there might be something wrong with the film. She certainly has been in enough money making features that the studio could have thrown a couple million into promotion on her name alone. This review WILL have spoilers so bear that in mind if you are thinking about seeing this film. I think we all should go out and see horror in the theater this one maybe less than others but don't let me stop you, not every movie moves every person.
  Miss Peregrin's Home for Peculiar Children, Ouija: Origin Of Evil, These first two made sense horror or fantasy previews in a horror movie, then we got The Accountant Ben Affleck as a accountant for the criminals who has real problems socializing, Why Him? A Brian Cranston, James Franco comedy about Cranston's daughter picking a weird irritating man (Franco) to get hitched to and the shenanigans of Cranston trying to stop the ill conceived coupling. Finally the last film was a thriller that looks to be a long car chase in KidNap. Halle Berry stops at nothing when her son is kidnapped and she see the car driving away. Sort of a really mixed bag of previews before a film that was also sort of a mixed bag. So what's the message in those choses the first two are for horror / fantasy people the accountant is certainly for older people, the Why Him? film is all about teens and the last thriller hell its a muddled mess according to the previews.
 So the theater experience: Since I am trying to see more film in the theater lets talk about what that experience was like. maybe there is some insight about the movie by who went and what previews were shown. There was only one other person there when I arrived 10 minutes before the show was to start. Eventually as the previews ran out we were up to 8 people, not totally out of the norm for an early afternoon Saturday showing. Weather has also been particularly wonderful in New England which I am sure had an effect on attendance. All but to of the people seemed to be over fifty with the other couple thirty somethings. Now this is interesting because it may say something about the attractiveness of the name of the film. The young audience is really what the industry is after but the name "The Disappointment Room" may not be appealing to younger people. The previews in order were
  This is a story of a family Dana (Kate Beckinsale), her husband David (Mel Raido) and their son Lucas (Duncan Joiner) who have suffered the tragedy of the death of their infant child Catherine. After that trauma the family near what would have been Catherine's first birthday, is moving from New York City to a giant manor in the fictional Willow Glen North Carolina. This believe this  premise seems so familiar there has to be other films with it. We get the impression from the conversation in the car that most of this move was David's idea. He sold his business is moving the family as a way of distracting Dana at this difficult time of year. He figures that the old place will need a lot of renovation and that former architect Dana can embrace that to stay busy. Certainly he is not thinking that his medicated wife who is still struggling with the death of her child would be better served in the city around friends and neighbors. No to him isolating her in the countryside seems the best route to mental health. Things do not go as planned, of course as we get some imagined black Sheppard prowling around the place.
  Dana really is struggling and we see this through her at first mild and then stronger hallucinations. She also makes a point to stop taking her medication which is never a good for someone having vivid violent visions. Add on top of this her nightmares every night and we have a mentally ill woman with active violent hallucinations, lack of medication, and is not sleeping well, pulled into an isolated setting at a significant date to the child she lost. David pushing the "We'll get through this together." attitude soon decides he has to go back into the city to close his sale deal, leaving Dana and Lucas on their own. Dana starts with seeing lights in the upper part of the house in a room that is not on the blue prints. Investigation shows a room hidden behind a wardrobe and it is not long before she finds out what it is all about.
  Dana's dreams and hallucinations get more scary as time goes on with visions of the rich family that used to own the house,Judge Blacker (Gerald McRaney) the father tall and intimidating with his barking black dog, his feeble wife (Jennifer Leigh Mann) and their facially deformed daughter (Ella Jones) who of course lives in the disappointments room. We over the course of the film learn the story and outcome of having such a child. The problem with this particular set of scares is that the are not really connected to the really big revelation in the climatic scenes. The dog in particular is a convenient tool in creating shock. In fact the whole back story of the disappointments room are strangely constructed around Dana's own more important story. It is like the film could not decide if it was going to be a ghost story or a story about a woman struggling with mental illness brought on by guilt. Sure the imagery of the ghosts were useful for creating some scares, in particular the imagined dog attack on Lucas. Really though none of that was real and just in Dana's head. It brings up the point of why the film makers had the ghosts do things for the benefit of the audience if the ghost are not real. At times the ghosts are seen behind Dana or watching her but since they are in her head why show that? Like when she is looking through the keyhole to the disappointments room and after she leaves we get a shot of an eye appearing in the keyhole. It does not make sense. Even though we know our main character has stopped taking her medication and that the psychological angle is the one the story eventually settles on in the middle we are still more ghost story by the records keeper in town.
   Ms. Judith (Marcia DeRousse) at the town records hall gives us a really awkward bit of exposition explaining what a disappointments room. In the old days when a rich family had a deformed child they would build a disappoints room and lock the child away never to become an embarrassment to the family. She kicks in a bit about vengeful ghost to up the ante a bit too. It would be interesting to see the first few drafts of this script, I would be interested to see if whether it was a ghost story first or a psychological thriller first. Written by Wentworth Miller and directed by D. J. Caruso there are some good things in this film but what it ends up being is a bit of a duel entity where neither story gets the full attention it needs. I say it settled on the mental illness angle and there is a scene where on what would have been Catherine's first birthday, David invites friends Teddy (Michael Landes) and Jules (Michaela Conlin) out for dinner, and Dana slips out of the mansion and heads into town to get drunk. We catch up with her when she returns really late and brings out a birthday cake for her daughter and then proceeds to yell and tear the room up in what is the tour de force scene for the actress and Beckinsale really goes for it too.
  There are a couple things in the film that went nowhere or did not make sense. The primary one was there is this roofer guy Ben (Lucas Till) who is a young man who while coming around to work on the house continually offers himself through slick dialog to Dana. It is never anything but words but for what purpose. To make the main character feel attractive, was there in some draft a relationship? This flirtation happens in every scene they are in together but ultimately that entire sub plot is dropped. Then there is the vanishing child syndrome, where Lucas for large chunks of the film is nowhere to be seen. Sure maybe they have him tucked in bed but we never see any of that parenting. He just vanishes at times so the adults can play out there scenes undisturbed. It was just too noticeable and became a distraction.
  Finally the climax of this film which could have saved it through a punch to the stomach for the audience never got there. We know that Dana is losing her grip on reality and on a dark stormy night the lack of medication and hallucinations of ghost come to a head. She has a fight with the Old Man ghost who says he is going after her son and sics the black dog on her. Paced so that she has to do everything in her power to save little Lucas she fights the dog off eventually snapping its neck. She runs around and around down the mansions spiral staircase trying to catch the mean old man ghost before he suffocates her son. She reaches him as Lucas struggles under the pillow. She hits the ghost and he falls onto the bed. She slams his head with her hammer more and more violently crushing his scull. feathers from the pillow fly, Davis breaks into the house and reaches her and flash, there is no ghost. Did Dana just beat her son's brain in. Oh my what a powerful ending as she killed her other child. but no the film completely pulls that punch what could have saved the film was reduced to she was killing a pillow and Lucas was on the other side of the bed. We finally learn why Catherine died, not a dog mauling, not SIDS but that Dana could not stand her colicky baby and in her postpartum depression suffocated it. After she gets past this there is actually a happy ending where David is taking the family back to the city realizing what a horrible plan coming to the country was in the first place. To finish us off with more muddling of story we see the ghost Dad looking out of the window as they pull away from the house but why?
  That is pretty much and encapsulation of this film disjointed not sure what story it wanted to tell it ends up being Dana's but with too many artifact of the second story that was too ell developed to be put in the background as symptoms of her mental illness.
  As I have done so far this year; I am doing as an experiment my Twitter account @Soresport is dedicated to following and being followed by people in and behind the scenes. Then I am also hoping some of them follow me back. (Not really expecting that though) It really is an experiment and where I love the horror community it is a way to keep track of what is going on by the people involved in it.  I am now following over 200 people while the followers is only 33 so as you can see people in the biz do not follow just anyone back. :) 

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