Step inside the Dead Room, where something sinister guards a home's horrifying secrets. Inspired by a 1970s urban legend, this atmospheric nerve-shredder follows two scientists and a young psychic as they travel to the countryside to investigate mysterious occurrences at a remote farmhouse. Skepticism quickly turns to terror as the researchers' presence unsettles a seriously angry demonic presence possessing the home. Upping the white-knuckle suspense with visceral camerawork and unsettling sound design, The Dead Room creates a sense of palpable danger lurking in every corner and hallway.
When you’ve watched as many bad horror movies as I have, you tend to develop a series of pet peeves that are an indicator on whether you will like the movie or not. At the top of that list for me is that, unless we’re talking about ‘Jaws,’ I can't stand horror films that don't show you the monster or creature that is terrorizing our protagonists. It always comes across as a cheap way to compensate for the fact that they don't actually have the budget to show what is haunting the house. Frustratingly enough, that is exactly how I felt about ‘The Dead Room.’
We start our haunted adventure in New Zealand, with some impressive cinematography, as we are introduced to the house that is supposedly haunted and its surroundings. Three ghost hunters have been hired to investigate the paranormal activity. Holly (Laura Petersen) the psychic, Liam (Jed Prophy) the techie, and Scott (Jeffrey Thomas) the hilariously crotchety scientist that I laughed at countless times because of his incessant pessimism. Every night at 3AM, they start to notice the whole house shakes and it seems to originate from the door at the end of the hallway. As time goes by, the spirit targets Holly, since she is a psychic, and the haunting gets worse and worse every night.
As you can tell, this is a generic horror movie plot with not much new to offer. There is nothing wrong with that; in fact, some say there hasn't been a truly new and creative idea for around twenty years or so. But it becomes frustrating when you don't even get to see the so called “horrific” spirit that is terrorizing them. It's right on the cover of this Blu-ray, yet they fake you out and only show her at the last minute of the movie. Hell, Holly sees her for the whole second half of this movie as it torments her, so why can't we? And torture her it does…in a hilarious way. The way the spirit tortures these characters is by basically throwing everything but the kitchen sink at them; remember that we can't see this spirit, so we only see floating boxes, electronics, and anything the spirit can get ahold of being thrown at our ghost hunters in a half assed CG kind of way. Speaking of half assed CG, at one point the spirit breaks a window while all the hunters are next to it, and the shards of glass fly out from the window and cut the ghost hunters in the face in an absolutely horrible CG effect.
This film should have been held off until it procured a bigger budget so we could actually see this creature and have it be more of a spectacle. Now, there aren't any special features here to confirm this, but if there was I bet you any money that they would say that we didn't see the shark in ‘Jaws’ until the end, and that this was an artistic choice, not a budgetary one. Bull crap, if they had the budget to have even a shoddy CG ghost here, it would be all over this film. I did have some fun with this movie, laughing at the half assed CG, and at Scott’s pessimism toward the whole project, but by and large this felt like an amateurish and unnecessary attempt at horror. Even though I wasn't offended by it, I was left rather ambivalent about the whole experience.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
Shout! Factory brings ‘The Dead Room’ to Blu-ray with the traditional slip cover that slips off to unveil a hard cover case. Once opened, you will find a BD-25 Blu-ray to the right, and behind it is an awesome drawing of the house in the film in the foreground, with mountains and ghost hunters in the background, that spans the entire width of the case. Once popped into the player we are presented with a series of skippable trailers, followed by the obligatory still frame main menu that allows you to navigate from there.
‘The Dead Room’ creeps its way onto Blu-ray with a 1080P/MPEG-4 AVC encode, that unlike the film itself, actually leaves an impression. Framed at a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, this transfer is all about dimensionally and clarity. Right from the first shot of the movie where you look over the entire property of the house, depth of field is excellent, as you pan over the vast field in the foreground to see the ominous house lurking in the background. This kind of dimensionally isn't just segregated to that opening shot. All throughout this movie, there are perspective shots where our leads are in the foreground with objects in the other room just slightly out of focus, and then our perspective changes to the background coming into focus. All of this adds a depth of field that I truly didn't expect, while also having a certain amount of clarity and detail work that is rare for a production like this. As ridiculous as the scene where the window shatters toward the screen is, again it had damn good depth of field and clarity to sell the shot a little more than you would expect.
Unfortunately, those pesky darker scenes where all the haunting takes place tend to lose some of that depth of field and turn this into the transfer I was expecting. Black levels dip a hair too deep and the scenes look a tad flat. But that is a small nitpick in an otherwise impressive transfer that exceeds expectations.
Shout! Factory throws everything at the wall but the kitchen sink on this Blu-ray, with a DTS-HD MA 5.1 track that literally is all about throwing things through the sound field. As I mentioned earlier, this particular ghost has a tendency to throw everything in sight at our protagonists, and even us, the viewers, from time to time. And when it does, the surrounds come to life while brooms, electronics, and sometimes even the protagonists come flying from the front speakers to the surrounds. Ambient noise is also an important factor here, giving the movie a creepy and eerie feeling that makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up. While all that can be gimmicky, it definitely helps keep your attention while the actual film itself doesn't.
The LFE track is also an aggressive one. Whenever the clock hits 3AM and the spirit comes out to play, the bass kicks in to signify that it is coming, and as silly as it seems, it is effective. This film’s audio design isn’t reinventing the wheel here, or showing us anything we haven’t heard before, but it’s still one hell of a good time. Despite not having a score I can get behind or the most dynamic audio, I had fun here, and that’s all that matters.
There are no extras.
I was brought back to something one of my college professors said during a class. It went something like, “If you’re making a film and you don’t have anything insightful to say, you shouldn’t say it at all.” As much as I disagree with that notion immensely, I kind of wish the powers behind this movie were sitting in that classroom with me that day, because this film doesn’t seem to have a point at all. There are some unintentionally funny scenes, and an expediently short runtime, but that’s it. Even with its efficient runtime, we only get a few minutes where we actually see the spirit haunting our ghost hunters, and for the rest of the time, we get nothing but implications at a haunting, as well as unintentional laughs as objects getting thrown around like a toddler throwing a tantrum. Like a cake that was taken out of the oven too soon and is now spoiled, this film should have stayed in development and gotten more financing so it could have a more meaningful and impactful result. As it stands, I have to think this is a compromised vision that has a stale and stagnant quality to it, which makes me feel rather ambivalent about the entire experience.