Film - Room 203

Coming to VOD platforms and select cinemas today, Ren Zelen visited the ghostly Room 203, thanks to Vertical Entertainment...

Director: Ben Jagger
Writers: Ben Jagger, Nanami Kamon, John Poliquin
Starring: Francesca Xuereb, Viktoria Vinyarska, Eric Wiegand, Scott Gremillion

Two best friends Kim (Francesca Xuereb) and Izzy (Viktoria Vinyarska) excited about being independent for the first time, think they’ve come into a bit of luck when they find a wonderful apartment in a vintage building for a remarkably cheap rent they might actually be able to afford.

It's big and it's fully furnished with retro-cool vintage furniture and unusual knick knacks. The most unique feature of the apartment is a huge, ornate, stained-glass window depicting a scene which seems to be knights in armour in battle.

Ronan, their landlord (Scott Gremillion) turns out to be a rather taciturn and creepy fellow and is very particular about preserving and maintaining the stained-glass window. He informs them of the rules and tells them that they are, so far, the only residents on that floor, so they have no neighbours. And of course, the basement is definitely off limits.

Very soon, a strange hole appears in Kim’s bedroom wall inside which Izzy finds a woman’s necklace. Of course, Izzy, being the more daring and racier one of the girls, insists on wearing it. Which is, inevitably, a bad idea.

Seasoned horror fans might well find that this setup is all too familiar, and indeed, Room 203, based on the novel written by Nanami Kamon, turns out to be pretty much your competent, by-the-numbers Friday-night-on-the-sofa-with-popcorn horror fare.

The greater strength of the movie lies in the backstory of the two girls. Kim is escaping from her smothering and controlling parents and hoping to atone for the fact that she was prevented from attending the funeral of best friend Izzy’s mother. Izzy’s subsequent breakdown and suicide attempt have wracked Kim with guilt and she vows that she will never abandon her friend again - that she will always be there for her.

In this sense, the film becomes a celebration of close female friendship and trust, and the most engaging moments come when Kim is writing an article about the tragic experiences of her friend Izzy and their mutual past history. This relationship is really the heart of the movie and is the aspect that rescues it from being totally mundane.

Kim just happens to be a freshmen college student studying to be a journalist, so when nasty odours and black crows begin to emerge from the hole in her bedroom wall, she becomes convinced that their new home is haunted.

Kim confides in fellow journalism student and potential boyfriend Ian (Eric Wiegand) and they agree to investigate the background of the building. In the process they unearth a grim past of disappearances, killings and possessions that has plagued the former tenants of Room 203.

It seems that the necklace and the stained-glass window might have something to do with an ancient curse - a curse that Izzy may already be falling prey to. Kim’s intentions are good, but her youth, lack of experience and resources make her struggle to help Izzy as much as she would like to. Kindness and friendship are a good starting point, but when things get supernatural, she’s at a loss.

Veteran horror movie fans might not find too much originality in Room 203 but it proves to be a competently made haunted-house horror with a small but solid ensemble cast. Leading ladies Xuereb and Vinyarska play off each other well and make Izzy and Kim’s friendship believable, despite being polar opposites. Their interactions seem credible because both are equally vulnerable in different ways, and their strengths complement each other.

Although Room 203 isn’t the most underivative film you’re likely to see, it’s generally efficient at putting the scares in the right places and focuses on conveying a sense of creepiness rather than trying to explain too much in the way of a plot. This makes for atmospheric filming, but the narrative does begin to come apart at the seams. It’s more likely to be the dynamic between Izzy and Kim that will keep you interested until the end.

Review Copyright R.H. Zelen – ©RenZelen 2022 All rights reserved.

Powered by Blogger.