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Tuesday, December 27, 2016
Another nice family moves into another spooky old house and encounters yet another restless spirit (or spirits) who may have met a violent end. Like many an oft-heard song, the notes are the same but it all comes down to how well they're played.
THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (2016) handles the verses about as well as can be expected; the choruses are so familiar we can practically sing along. Director D.J. Caruso (DISTURBIA, THE SALTON SEA), a capable craftsman, comes through with a catchy solo now and then. But ultimately it's the same old song.
We're already in comfortably well-traveled territory when Dana (Kate Beckinsale, UNDERWORLD, VAN HELSING) and David (Mel Raido, CLUBBED, THE INFORMERS) move into a large and very quaint old house that's way off the beaten track, along with young son Lucas (Duncan Joiner).
All of them are still smarting from a horrible family tragedy that's barely even begun healing. Hardest hit is wife Dana--she's deep in therapy, constantly on meds, and, unfortunately, a little unclear about what's real and what isn't.
So naturally she's the one to discover that the house has its own tower with spiral-staircase access (which Dana, an architect, somehow missed while house-hunting) leading to a hidden room where someone, or something, may have been imprisoned. And it (or its ghost) may still be there, waiting to get out.
At first, the film takes its time establishing a bucolic mood which will gradually turn dark and sinister for our unsuspecting protagonists. We meet some of the local townspeople who, of course, all seem a bit off to the transplanted city dwellers (the feeling is mutual) and who hint that bad things have happened in that old house.
Dana, it turns out, has the strongest personality of the two, with David being a bit of a wuss. In fact, when he has to go away to the city for a few days and leave Dana alone in the house, I was thinking it might've been better the other way around. Still, seeing her resolute (and borderline-bitchy) attitude fall apart in the face of possible madness and delusion makes her mental deterioration all the more effective.
Along the way, director Caruso tries his best to pull some scary stuff on us, including one sequence that's right out of Danny's hallway encounter with the twins in THE SHINING. But what he mainly manages to do is generate suspense--Dana is often desperately racing to rescue Lucas from some imminent danger and we, seeing much of the story from her point of view, are never quite sure if it's real or imagined. This keeps us off-balance much of the time, and the tension is strong and well-rendered.
The scary stuff, on the other hand, is pretty weak sauce. I was glad to see that the film doesn't rely a lot on the loud noises, flashy effects, and "gotcha!" scares that are so prevalent in recent horror films.
But the ghostly elements just aren't that effective--we're interested in how the story plays out, while being in no danger of it scaring us. Especially when someone as old-shoe comfortable as Gerald McRaney ("Major Dad", "Simon & Simon") turns up as a "scary" ghost.
Beckinsale, now with blonde hair, is easy on the eyes and does an adequate job without really over-exerting her acting muscles. As husband David, Raido effectively comes across as a bit mousey and not much help to Dana when the ectoplasm hits the fan, which is probably intentional. Lucas Till (LAID TO REST, ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE) turns up as a young handyman but his part doesn't really go anywhere.
The DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, LLC (TCFHE) is in 2.39:1 widescreen with English Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish. Extras consist of a brief making-of featurette and a trailer.
If you're looking to be scared out of your wits, this'll probably barely manage to raise a single hackle. But for a darkly suspenseful mystery tale with some nice gothic elements and a knack for keeping the viewer off-guard, THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM should keep you occupied for awhile.
Buy it at Amazon.com
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