Tag: d.j. caruso

The Disappointments Room

The Disappointments Room (2016)
★ / ★★★★

The problem with an unreliable protagonist in psychological horror pictures is that the writing requires a certain finesse in addition to the seamless ability of putting on screen one’s understanding of abnormal psychology so that the viewers buy into the plight of the main character deeply and thoroughly rather than constantly being reminded of the possibility that the events we see on screen may or may not be happening. This trope is far too often used in horror films, but it is almost always never effective. Living up to its title, “The Disappointments Room,” written by D.J. Caruso and Wentworth Miller, is no exception.

The film begins like any other pedestrian horror movie. After a tragedy, a family (Kate Beckinsale, Mel Raido, Duncan Joiner) moves to the country in order to start anew. Coming from the city, Dana and David are able to purchase a rather spacious home, a fixer-upper, with many rooms and a deep history. Waking up from a nightmare during their first nights, Dana ends up exploring the attic and comes across a room not depicted on the plans. She looks through the keyhole and sees a window—she recognizes that it is the same window that, when seen from the outside, yellow light emanates from from time to time… even though no one is supposed to be there.

Despite a creepy-looking house, the filmmakers never bother to get the audience acquainted with the space. So, whenever a character must run from one room to another, sometimes from one floor to the other, we have no idea about the geography of the place and whether it would take some time to be able to rescue a loved one from an unknown force. Also, notice how each room is almost always lighted the same way. There is a blandness to the look of each room when it should be the opposite. The best haunted house movies tend to take advantage of the shadows created by moonlight, the creepy paintings left by prior owners, the leak coming from the roof as a stormy night unfolds.

The acting is like rotten wood. Beckinsale appears to have one emotion, whether it be her character meeting her new neighbors or when she believes that an apparition is about to kill her son. In between such extremes, Beckinsale must play a woman on the verge of a breakdown. Her face—still one note. How can we believe that Dana is possibly losing her grip on reality when the performer is unable to emote the necessary complex emotions? Raido is not any better although he almost gets away with it since he has only one role to play: an increasingly concerned husband. Sometimes a horror film manages to have good actors despite an awful screenplay. Both are equally egregious here.

Directed by D.J. Caruso, “The Disappointments Room” even fails to offer one good scare. This is because it is not a patient film. There is no build-up, only a series of nightmares that almost always end up with a sudden loud noise. That’s not scary, that’s lazy. I found this picture to be insulting to the intelligence in almost every single way.

I Am Number Four

I Am Number Four (2011)
★ / ★★★★

John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) was an alien passing as a normal teenager. John and Henri (Timothy Olyphant), his guardian, led a nomadic lifestyle because the Mogadorians, an alien race that destroyed their planet, were on the hunt for the nine chosen ones. John happened to be number four on their list. John and Henri moved for Paradise, Ohio and it seemed like any other town in the middle of nowhere. But when John met Sarah (Dianna Agron), he found a reason to stay. “I Am Number Four,” directed by D.J. Caruso, could have been an interesting if the filmmakers had paid more attention to the characters instead of the CGI. When the best part of the film consisted of a battle between two giant CGI monsters, that is usually not a good sign. Casting was partly to blame. Pettyfer lacked enough dimension and angst for us to want to get to know him. The deadpan delivery of his lines worked against him because the script was already so thin. He was charismatic when he smiled but that was about it. There were some shots where I thought his pose could’ve made a great American Eagle summer ad, especially in the beginning when he was at beach, but I wasn’t interested in John’s story. I found myself more interested in the stronger actors like Sam, John’s friend who was bullied at school because he was interested in aliens, played with wit by Callan McAuliffe. Since he was pushed around like a nobody yet never seemed to fight back, most of us could easily relate to him. We wanted him to throw a punch or try to pull off a mean prank against his tormentors. He said cheeky things like his life being one big episode of “The X-Files.” But as the picture went on, Sam wasn’t given very much to do, perhaps because he didn’t have any superpowers. Instead, he ended up babysitting John’s dog. The picture had serious issues in terms of its pacing. It took too long to get into the meat of the story. I found it too preoccupied with delivering clichéd images like someone, in slow motion, strutting away from a massive explosion. Questions such as why the Mogadorians wanted to kill the nine, the importance of the rocks Sam’s father collected, and why Number 6 (Teresa Palmer) was intent on finding Number Four were awkwardly tacked on during the last forty minutes. Lastly, the villains were completely forgettable. All of them looked alike–bald and with teeth in desperate need of braces. If one stood out as a character foil against John, it would have been far more interesting. Based on the novel by Pittacus Lore, “I Am Number Four” was too much computer and not enough imagination. It felt like a very rough sketch of a television pre-teen flick on the CW.