'The Disappointments Room' Is, Uh, Well ... Not Good Horror

Directed by: DJ Caruso; Runtime: 85 minutes
Grade: D-

If someone's planning on including the word "disappointment" anywhere in the title of their film, they'd better make damn sure that the content within will be able to withstand a decent amount of scrutiny, else the criticisms will essentially write themselves. The situation could be made worse if the project musters an eye-catching trailer, one that might, y'know, set the audience up for an engaging experience that it can't deliver on, especially in the fickle realm of the horror genre. The Disappointments Room boasts quite a few elements that look interesting when kept in short two-minute packages, featuring a blonde, tendril-haired Kate Beckinsale moving through the ominous corridors of a large mansion as she deals with the rigors of haunted-house thrills and psychological horror. When stretched out across a feature-length movie, the potential of the atmosphere and of Beckinsale as a different sort of horror-movie victim than her typical modus operandi is kept locked away in this ill-conceived and unscary blunder from DJ Caruso.

The Disappointments Room follows the blueprints of many, many horror movies that came before it, where a family of three movies away from their city life to the rural calmness of small-town USA, buying up a mansion that fits what they've always wanted for their family home ... with a little remodeling. It's the perfect project for Dana (Beckinsale) and David (Mel Raido) to shoulder after enduring the trauma of losing their infant daughter, not to mention that it's right up Dana's wheelhouse being that she's an architect. While getting settled into their major fixer-upper of a house, along with situating their 5-year-old son, Lucas, Dana discovers that there's a peculiar room that doesn't appear on the floorplan for the house. A little research reveals that it's a "disappointments room", a place where well-to-do people hide away their children or loved ones with embarrassing physical or mental issues. Dana's investigation into this room, coupled with this new rural isolation, begins to have an impact on her own mental issues.

Director DJ Caruso, who took familiar voyeuristic elements found in the likes of Hitchcock's Rear Window and updated them in the surprisingly sharp Disturbia, aims to model the haunted-house concept in The Disappointments Room around Dana's deteriorating psychological condition. A handsome brick, ivy-covered North Carolina home offers a visually intriguing setting for the film's exterior shots, while unique perspectives inside a second space capture the symptoms of neglect and trauma through the unique winding staircases, darkened wood-paneled attics, and grimy textures inside The Disappointments Room itself. This is a fine arrangement of locations to shoot this sort of film, which periodically mirrors the disorderly and twisted state of Dana's mind, creating numerous scenes that, based purely on the visual tone alone, could form into an absorbing depiction of ambiguity as to whether the thing she's experiencing are merely figments of her psychosis.

The ambitiousness in focusing upon what's real and not in the events surrounding Dana also becomes The Disappointments Room's undoing. Despite a dull, routine introduction into the family's moving-in process and the film's early hints toward the harrowing events that caused them to relocate, writers Caruso and Wentworth Miller -- who also penned Park Chan-wook's tense and twisted English language debut, Stoker -- at first invite the audience's curiosity to decode the differences between psychological manifestations and the presence of supernatural beings within the house. There are so many shifts between reality, dreams, and hallucinations that The Disappointments Room loses any form of anchor within the story, which in turn causes one to give up on trusting what they're seeing and, thus, give up on caring one way or the other. Unsettling flashes of suicide, murder, brutal dog attacks, and other grotesqueness play out as a morbid hodgepodge of imagery with hardly any forward momentum.

Similar to moody horror dramas such as Birth or The Others that involve children, The Disappointments Room is designed around bleak twisted moods instead of direct scares, so it's up to the genuineness of what's going on and the responsiveness of the performances to draw us into the ominous atmosphere. Despite Kate Beckinsale's best efforts at projecting a strained and growingly unhinged mother coping with mental illness, writer/director Caruso draws out overly broad, stiff performances to enliven the script's unsubtle exposition and fraught dramatics, all hinged on Dana's experiences involving the literal and figurative ghosts contained within the secret room. Without any sort of obligation toward true jump-scares or shock value, the feeble dramatic value produces a dim, extra slow-burning hodgepodge of brazen psychosis and cumbersome supernatural red herrings, easily standing out as one of the most disappointing genre films to come out the woodwork and onto the big screen this year. Yeah, I know, I couldn't help myself.

For the full Blu-ray review, head over to DVDTalk.com: [Click Here]


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