Review of “The Disappointments Room”

Dana and David (Kate Beckinsale and Mel Raido) along with their young child Lucas (Duncan Joiner) are moving to their new home out in the country. Dana and David are looking at this as a new start after suffering a major tragedy. Dana has been under the care of a doctor to deal with the fallout of this heartbreak but seems to be doing better. The home is nearly a century old and needs repair but Dana is an architect and plans on doing most of the renovations herself. In the attic, Dana discovers a door to a room that isn’t on the blueprints. Unable to find a key, Dana continues to set up in her new home when she begins to suffer from vivid, violent dreams of vicious black dogs and a stately but stern looking man in formal dress from what appears to be the turn of the century. Obsessed over the mysterious room in the attic, Dana finds the key to open the door but gets locked in after the door closes by itself and there’s no handle on the inside. Thinking she’s been locked inside the room for hours, when she is finally able to escape Dana discovers she was only in the room for about 20 minutes. Dana’s behavior becomes more bizarre and troubling to David who is concerned both for his wife and their son. Dana does some research and discovers the room in the attic is probably where the family that first lived in the home kept a child born with a deformity of some sort. Called a disappointments room, wealthy families would keep a child there and away from the outside world for all their lives. Are spirits of this child and family haunting Dana’s home and dreams or is she slipping back into the mental illness that led to her need for treatment?

“The Disappointments Room” wants to be moody, atmospheric and subtle. It wants to be a thinking-person’s horror film. Sadly, as it tries to be smart it leaves out all the things that make scary movies scary. There’s a very long slow burn in the film that is supposed to eventually lead to a frenetic and satisfying ending. What ends up happening is a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy as the movie lives up (or down) to its name.

Kate Beckinsale and Mel Raido do the best they can with a lethargically paced script that is long on conversation and wide-eyed expressions but woefully short on action or scares. Beckinsale does most of the emotional heavy lifting as Raido’s character is written as loving but otherwise oblivious. The writing for these married characters feels all wrong. We assume they have been together for at least six or seven years as their son looks to be about that old. Yet, David seems to be utterly surprised by some of Dana’s behavior and reactions that aren’t about her possible relapse into mental illness. An interaction between Dana, David and Ben, a local contractor played by Lucas Till, feels more like something from the first days of a relationship rather than coming several years in. The smattering of local yokel characters sprinkled in for flavor and a tiny bit of backstory also seems badly thought out and poorly written. Even the town historian that has information helpful to Dana is written to dismiss her own beliefs then turn around and try to help via a phone call that isn’t answered. From the story to the characters, “The Disappointments Room” is poorly structured and badly written.

The only interesting part of the film is the tug-of-war between whether Dana is losing her mind or actually being haunted by ghosts. Everything we see her experience is quickly shown to have been a hallucination; but is it the ghosts invading her dreams and creating wild visions or is it mental illness? One of the few things the movie does well is make the audience question what the real cause of Dana’s issue is. At times I was certain it was ghosts and at others I thought she needed to up her medication. This small bit of adequacy isn’t enough to redeem the film that has enormous problems in just about every area.

“The Disappointments Room” is rated R for violent content, bloody images, some sexuality and language. The violence is scattered and only ramps up late in the movie when the more bloody events occur. There are a couple of attacks by a large black dog that are shot in a very choppy way to imply more injury than you see. There’s also an animal that is shown after being attacked and partially consumed. The sexuality is very mild and consists only of comments. Foul language is scattered.

There isn’t much to recommend “The Disappointments Room.” It takes a long time to get to the haunting (or non-haunting) parts of the story. The special effects used to create a malformed child look cheap. A scene where a person gets his head bashed in looks like a crash test dummy is being bludgeoned. The interactions between the married characters didn’t feel real and the ending doesn’t make a great deal of sense. All in all, “The Disappointments Room” is just that.

“The Disappointments Room” gets two stars out of five.

Three new movies are looking to scare up some business this week. I’ll see and review at least one of the following:

Blair Witch—

Bridget Jones Baby—

Snowden—

Follow me on Twitter @moviemanstan and send emails to stanthemovieman@comcast.net.

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