By DEIRDRE CRIMMINS
Starring Olga Kurylenko, Kevin Janssens, & Joshua Wilson
Directed by Christian Volckman
Written by Christian Volckman & Eric Forestier
Elle Driver/ Shudder
THE ROOM is a tight, tense, escapist horror film that makes us take a tough look at what it means to dream, and what happens when dreams morph into nightmares.
Original stories which rewrite our reality can start with just a simple question. What is death isn’t the end? What if time broke? And, in the case of THE ROOM: What if you get everything you want? The chilling answer compels people to act selfishly and to tinker with life and death.
The film follows the classic trope of a young, beautiful couple driving to their new-to-them, not so beautiful home. It is a remote fixer-upper, but it is all theirs and they could both use a fresh start. Kate and Matt (Olga Kurylenko and Kevin Janssens) are in love and ready to get this house back in shape. But this is no ordinary house.
Though the process of cleaning and repairing Matt finds a very special, hidden room. In that room, wishes for new possessions are granted magically. They soon run through the typical phases of indulgence like the mall-dwellers in DAWN OF THE DEAD to the point where cash is a bore and jewels have no meaning. However the one thing Matt and Kate have always wanted but never had is a child. This is where THE ROOM takes its dark turn from speculative fiction into horrifically playing god.
Janssens and Kurylenko both do a solid job of carrying their emotional roles, however the true strength of THE ROOM is in the world rewritten by co-writer and director Christian Volckman. the very notion of a room that grants wishes could have easily tipped into farce were it not for relatable characters and mounting peril. The consequences to the couple’s actions takes its sweet time to reveal itself, and when it does it only raises the stakes of this magical place.
Watching THE ROOM today has an entirely different layer of experience than it would have had watching the film in a cinema, with a crowd, last year. There is no way Volckman could have possibly known that when his film hit Shudder’s streaming last month that it would be consumed almost entirely by people isolating themselves from the outside world. Not only are people developing closer relationships to their homes than they ever had before, but the danger of the outside world feels sharper these days. Kate and Matt’s intense relationship with their new house hits close to home (get it?) and somehow logical in ways that did not seem possible before.
THE ROOM is not a gorefest nor is it an atmospheric spooktacular. It is an unnerving tale of the rules of our world breaking, and it does not hesitate to show the dark consequences.