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.
Stoker is a stylish and sometimes disturbing thriller directed by Oldboy director Park Chan-wook from a script by Wentworth Miller. It weaves a tale about the eccentric Stoker family on the day of the funeral for husband, Richard (Dermot Mulroney) who was killed in an apparent car accident. 18 year old daughter, India (Mia Wasikowska) and mother, Evelyn (Nicole Kidman) have a strained relationship as it is, and Richard’s death doesn’t make it easier between the two. Handsome, long lost uncle Charlie (Matthew Goode) shows up at the funeral and decides to stay awhile. Both these lonely ladies are quite taken with the mysterious and charming Charlie, as he is with them. The longer he stays, the more the truth about Richard’s unmentioned brother comes out and the reactions to those truth’s have an especially intriguing effect on young Mia.
Park’s direction and visual style are the perfect compliment to this gothic melodrama laced with mystery and sexual tension. His camera work is as eccentric as the characters themselves and it really draws one into what is occurring. Even though the film takes a little while to really get interesting, Park keeps us involved by not feeding us everything we want to know too quickly. The script is very clever and delivers some very legitimate shocks and surprises by the time the credits roll and some devilishly gruesome moments, too. To discuss it in any more detail would be to ruin a very interesting and refreshingly offbeat movie.
The cast give some very good performances that imbue the eccentric characteristics of their characters yet, still surprise us when we see just how deep their eccentricities go. Wasikowska is especially good as the come-of-age Mia and she and Kidman play the simmering inner jealousy over the attention Charlie pays them both very well. You can feel the increasing dislike for each other as the mysterious young man woos daughter and mother at the same time and sometimes in front of each other. As for Goode, he plays Charlie with just enough of a hint that there is something not right, yet still makes him convincing as the charming wolf in the hen house. And when there is a wolf in the hen house, there is usually blood!
Part gothic drama, part mystery thriller and a really enjoyable, devious and slightly decadent piece of entertainment from Park and Co.
3 and 1/2 saddle shoes