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.