THE DEAD ROOM is a curious little horror flick — a slow burn that follows three paranormal investigators as they attempt to be the first to record proof that apparitions exist. When a family in New Zealand become terrified and flee from their home, three investigators — a psychic, a skeptical scientist, and a go-to tech guy — arrive at the residence to examine the scene. After several nights of ghostly encounters becoming increasingly closer, the investigators stumble on to something even more terrifying than what they originally thought they were dealing with.
THE DEAD ROOM primarily focuses on the three investigators; all three portrayed by decent actors who are believable in their parts. Jeffrey Thomas plays Scott Cameron, the eldest of the group. Scott’s the skeptic of the three, believing that science will solve everything. Jed Brophy stars as Liam Andrews. Liam is the middle-aged one who basically spends the entire running-length of the film just setting up gear, listening through a boom mic, and watching surveillance footage. He’s apparently a scientist as well, but he really just comes across as more of a tech guru. Then there is Laura Peterson as Holly Matthews. Very out of place amongst the other two investigators, Holly is incredibly young — late teens to early 20s — and has that whole teenage angst/misunderstood goth girl thing going for her. She’s a physic and is the only one who can actually see the apparitions. While the chemistry’s great between the three, the fact that there’s really no explanation of how they came together is a bother that lingered in the back of my mind throughout most of the film.
In fact, there’s truly a lot of the film that’s left unexplained. This is usually something that’s easy to overlook when it comes to horror films, but here, it felt like more would’ve equaled better. For example, the first ten minutes or so of the film, hardly any dialogue is spoken. The three arrive at the home, look around, and set things up. Now that’s not a bad thing, but it would’ve been a perfect time to semi-explain the situation to the audience. If I hadn’t known what the film was about beforehand, I probably would’ve been left confused during those ten minutes. Scott talks to someone on a phone — his boss, I suppose? — and there’s an insurance mention somewhere throughout the film. Apparently insurance covers ghost encounters now? New Zealand’s insurance companies are quite thorough.
Something else that was bothersome was that these three paranormal investigators stay awake all day consuming coffee, but then sleep all night when things are actually happening. Even when they find out that the ghost visits every night at 3am, they still go to bed to sleep. In fact, during one scene, the ghost comes, but then leaves immediately after. Our paranormal team’s response? Go back to bed. Yup — there’s no way that ghost may return throughout the night, so let’s just go back to bed. I don’t know… I’ve never gone ghostbusting before, but I would think that sleeping during the day and staying up during the night would be a lot more productive and sensical.
There’s still a lot to be liked about THE DEAD ROOM, though. While the screenplay by Jason Stutter and Kevin Stevens could’ve been a lot tighter, Stutter (who’s also the director) does a fine job of setting the mood and atmosphere. I loved the fact that I couldn’t see the “tall man” ghost. I could tell where he was due to objects being interacted with, but other than that, I was left as clueless as Scott and Liam. This made me really feel for Holly whenever she was terrified, supposedly as she looked into the eyes of our antagonist. The haunted home was also a character in itself. While THE DEAD ROOM deals with ghosts rather than the possessed, I couldn’t help but feel a real THE EVIL DEAD vibe throughout the film.
In the end, THE DEAD ROOM is not a great film, but it is an okay one. Too many unanswered questions are left behind by the time the end credits roll and the entire final act of the film comes out of nowhere (truly, it’s the ending that keeps me from rating this higher). Honestly, if a half-hour would’ve been trimmed off of this film, it would’ve been an excellent short horror flick. Since that’s not the case, though, I say go elsewhere if you’re looking for a truly good ghost film. THE DEAD ROOM has so many great ideas and a lot of promise, but it sadly failed in the execution of it all.
Review copy of THE DEAD ROOM provided by Raven Banner Releasing.