THE DISAPPOINTMENTS ROOM (2016)
The Disappointments Room is exactly that. Kate Beckinsale stars as architect, wife and mother, Dana, who is moving into a rural country home with her family. Exploring her new house she finds it has a hidden locked room in the attic. Research reveals it’s a disappointments room…a room where well-to-do families hid deformed or handicapped children, to live out their lives in secret without ’embarrassing’ their families. Dana, having lost one of her own children, is especially disturbed by this and starts to see and be haunted by visions and apparitions of a past family and their deformed daughter. Is she just experiencing delusions caused by grief over the accidental death of her baby daughter, or is she really being haunted?
Directed by D.J. Caruso (Disturbia), from a script by he and Wentworth Miller, this is an incredibly generic ghost story. All the well-worn clichés are present, such as Dana being the only one who sees these apparitions and the husband (Mel Raido) leaving mid-haunting to go away for a few days with the haunted wife now home alone with her son (Duncan Joiner). Beckinsale really tries hard here to give her emotionally strained mom some depth, but the incredibly bland script doesn’t give her much to work with. Raido’s husband is the typical doubter who believes it’s all in his wife’s head and there is the stereotypical young, hunky handyman (Lucas Till) to hit on Beckinsale’s hot mom, in a sub-plot that goes nowhere. Caruso directs competently, but achieves only a few spooky moments and holds our interest only by a thread. Bland and very familiar.
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Kristy is a taunt and intense little thriller that finds pretty college student Justine (Haley Bennett) staying behind on campus during the Thanksgiving break. Her weekend of solace, solitude and study is turned into a living nightmare when she has an unsettling encounter with a very strange women (Ashley Greene) at a convenience store. The woman and her masked associates follow Justine back to campus and begin to hunt her like an animal, killing anyone that gets in their way and referring to her as “Kristy”. Whatever their motives or reasons, Justine has no plans to be an easy target and this time, the hunters may have chosen the wrong prey!
Intense thriller is directed by Oliver Blackburn and is a simple story made all the more effective because of it’s simplicity. There is no excess baggage here. Blackburn, from Anthony Jaswinski’s script, establishes from the first frames that these are deranged and dangerous individuals and then quickly establishes Justine as a very likable and hardworking young woman. We like her right away and thus when she is targeted by Greene’s disturbing woman and her associates, we care about her and are rooting for her. Also established is just how alone Justine is, as the campus is all but empty and any possible help are dispatched quickly and brutally. This creates an atmosphere of helplessness and tension as Justine is outnumbered and forced to play a cat and mouse game with these vicious killers. The film never gives us an outright explanation of exactly who they are and why they are doing this…though the opening montage voiceover states that Kristy means ‘flower of Christ’ and to “kill ‘Kristy’ is to kill God”, so this may indicate a Satanic cult. Whatever their origins, we do get just enough to establish that they are serial murderers with an agenda and a purpose and there are vague clues left for us to put together on our own as for the details. Blackburn skillfully combines all this into a tight little movie about a young woman fighting for her life and we like Justine enough and hate these thugs enough that when she does fight back, it evokes strong reaction. If you find yourself cheering out loud for our heroine, you are not alone. It can be brutal at times, but never overdoes it, so the violence has impact.
Our two female leads are very strong. Haley Bennett gives us a very smart, determined and resilient heroine in the very likable Justine. She is obviously terrified, but not going down without a fight and when cornered, she strikes out with a vengeance. Ashley Greene again shows with the right material and project she can impress as she did with her touching performance in Skateland. Here she is a psychotic killer and a very effective one. As the only one of the killers to show her face and speak, it is up to her to establish the menace and lethality of the deranged individuals who hunt Justine and she does so, very well. As for the rest of the supporting players they all do solid work from ill-fated campus security (Mathew St. Patrick) to Justine’s loving boyfriend (Lucas Till) to Greene’s silent companions in murder (Chris Coy, Mike Seal and Lucius Falick).
I liked this movie a lot. Simple and direct, with no unnecessary baggage. Establishes heroine and villains quickly and gets down to the suspense and violence. It gives our bad guys…and girl…menace and yet an air of mystery and creates a strong and very likable heroine to root for. When the violence comes, it’s just enough to give it impact, but not bludgeon us or numb us to it. There is some nail-biting suspense, good atmosphere and Blackburn uses the empty halls and rooms of Kristy‘s college campus setting to maximum effect. Add in an effective 80s-ish electronic score by François-Eudes Chanfrault (High Tension, Inside) and you have got an entertaining and intense night on the couch!
3 and 1/2 baseball bats.