Director: D.J. Caruso
Writer: Wentworth Miller, D.J. Caruso
Producer: Geyer Kosinski, Vincent Newman, Tucker Tooley
Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Mel Raido, Celia Weston, Duncan Joiner, Michaela Conlin, Joely Fisher, Michael Landes, Marcia Derousse, Gerald McRaney, Lucas Till
A mother in mourning encounters haunting visions and nightmares after uncovering a hidden room in her new home’s old attic.
The office where financers first realized they were producing a pedestrian potboiler. The editing bay where filmmakers confirmed they were cutting together claptrap. Any theater where people paid money to flush away 90 minutes of free time. A vanilla thriller devoid of even one beat that can be considered creative. Besides being lamely obvious jabs, all of these are apt definitions for “The Disappointments Room.”
Along with their young son Lucas, Dana Barrow and her husband David are seeking some sort of serenity after the accidental death of their infant daughter. Being required therapy for such a tragedy in a dramatic chiller, the family relocates to a creepily cavernous old home in the middle of nowhere. And as usual for haunted house real estate in a horror film, the Barrows apparently purchased the property sight unseen, as Dana, an architect no less, seems to be laying eyes on her new house for the very first time.
Boxes aren’t even unpacked and little Lucas is already talking to an imaginary friend with nosy questions about mom. Turns out he is actually talking to a stray cat in the sole moment when the movie says, “bet you thought we were going to go with a cliché!” before its prompt resumption of containing nothing but clichés.
Twelve minutes in and it is already time for a trek into town where a local shopkeeper expresses relief that someone has finally moved into the old Blacker house. She doesn’t get into specifics of why no one has lived there for quite some time, but you can be sure a newspaper clipping montage will fill in the blanks down the line.
Dana is soon plagued by visions of a dark dog, a little girl, and Gerald McRaney. She traces the source of the supernatural sightings to a hidden room in the attic, a ‘disappointments room’ where turn-of-the-century socialites cruelly shuttered disfigured children to prevent public shame. Waking nightmares intensify, causing Dana to irrationally reason that this is a fine time to put her meds in the toilet. Now she cannot be certain if the horrors she is seeing are a manifestation of her mind, or are hinting at a deeper mystery hidden in the house.
Any barely-seasoned film fan would have taken one look at the shooting script, whose contents include conventions like, “she wakes suddenly from a nightmare,” “she opens the door slowly and bats fly out for a sudden scare,” or “the paintings she burned mysteriously reappear intact” and wondered, “is this seriously getting a green light?”
Instead, someone actually invested money and asked, “how soon do we start?” Either that or, affording benefit of the doubt that a paint-by-numbers production was knowingly in play, someone said, “at least cast a star and we can probably push this wide.”
Poor Kate Beckinsale is saddled with sidling around scenery looking longingly into mirrors or listening to raindrops echo. She has little actual acting to do. She is a prop for the camera to grasp at some sort of atmospheric ambiance.
The film’s final edit waves a white flag of having been worn out from so much whittling, it simply surrenders completing a cohesive cut with an exhausted, “let’s just be done with this.” Third-billed Celia Weston has only one scene. One actress on a title card doesn’t even speak. End credits consider characters so inconsequential, Joely Fisher is listed as ‘Psychiatrist’ even though the doctor she plays has a name. So many subplots were excised to get the movie down to the most basic 80 minutes that what little ‘B’ bits remain make zero sense.
Should “The Disappointment Rooms” be remembered at all, already an unlikely scenario, it might be by horror fans as the Relativity release that displaced Mike Flanagan’s long-lingering in limbo “Before I Wake” on the beleaguered company’s distribution schedule. Those who watch both will additionally wonder why anyone thought this movie would be preferable to the other when there is no doubt which is superior.
“The Disappointments Room” is too generic to even be suitable for a white noise watch while folding laundry. Take that risk and you’re liable to fall asleep mid-fluff and suffocate under some socks.
Review Score: 30