Among a small handful of new indie horror hitting streaming platforms this week, Doom Room arguably boasts the most intriguing premise. Writer and director Jon Keeyes sets his provocative thriller in what’s largely a single room. Doom Room also stars fan favourite ‘Scream Queen’ Debbie Rochon. Alternately titled Nightmare Box, it looks like this is a movie that sat on the shelf for a while. Should Doom Room have been left on the shelf? Or is it a hidden gem for horror connoisseurs?
A woman wakes up trapped in a dimly lit room. She has no memory of how she arrived or even her own name. Her only way out – a heavy steel door – is locked from the other side. But ‘Jane Doe’ soon discovers she’s not alone. Ghostly entities – some friendly, others not – come and go from the room. Some are there to help her, others to torment. Do they hold answers to Jane Doe’s identity and how she became trapped?
Doom Room Visually Impressive, But Not Memorable
In spite of its single setting, director Jon Keeyes crafts a visually engaging indie horror film. Early in the movie, a character remarks that they’re ‘in Hell.’ From lighting to its neon red tints, Keeyes does his best to make this indie horror an embodiment of a living ‘purgatory’, and he’s largely successful.’ Nothing in the movie looks cheap or low-budget. Additionally, there’s a dream-like quality to several scenes that falls just short of some of more memorable surrealist horror.
The movie looks good, but not much is likely to resonate after the credits roll.
Unfortunately, this is where Doom Room runs into problems. It’s visually interesting, but comparisons to surrealist horror movies, like Mandy, are inevitable. In this regard, Doom Room falls well short of what other similar movies have achieved. Keeyes doesn’t fully embrace the same dreamy aesthetics that defined Panos Cosmatos’ Mandy. The movie looks good, but not much is likely to resonate after the credits roll. Imagery that is intended to shock and provoke also lacks the effect Keeyes intended. HBO or Showtime television shows likely have more edgy fetish imagery than what you’ll find in Doom Room.
A Mystery That Tips Its Hand Too Soon
For 15 minutes or so, Doom Room achieves a good balance between some unsettling imagery and mystery. Audiences will be quickly swept into ‘Jane Doe’s’ predicament and, like the character, will be trying to piece together her identity. Even as some of the movie’s mystery tips its hand, one has to be impressed with writers Keeyes and Carl Kirshner’s interest in making something more than a ‘Torture Porn 2.0′ redux. Doom Room is nothing if not ambitious.
What’s left is a long, talky stretch in the movie’s middle that badly drags. Doom Room grinds to a halt with a lot of expository dialogue and lack of momentum and scares.
Nevertheless, astute horror fans will piece together the movie’s mystery pretty fast. What’s left is a long, talky stretch in the movie’s middle that badly drags. Doom Room grinds to a halt with a lot of expository dialogue and lack of momentum and scares. As you start to piece together the movie’s mystery, Doom Room again draws unfavourable comparisons to much better movies, including the recent Aussie thriller, Hounds of Love. Sadly, the climax is almost perfunctory in just how anti-climatic it turns out.
Middle-of-the-Road Performances Fail to Elevate Movie Above Its Limited Setting
None of the performances in Doom Room are bad. Nicholas Ball, credited as ‘Man’, probably delivers the movie’s best performance. Genre favourite Debbie Rochon, who turns up as a tormenting spirit, is fine but not nearly as fun in the role as you’d hope. The problem that emerges for Doom Room is that none of the performances are compelling. With its limited single setting, this is a movie that needed someone that could really suck audiences in. Instead what the movie has are performances that are merely passable.
Doom Room Has Little to Recommend
Neither terrible nor particularly good, Doom Room has little to recommend horror audiences. If you’re already visited your local cineplex to see Escape Room, it joins The 6th Friend, which was also released this week, as a passable indie horror. But it feels like we’re still in a holding patter in early 2019, waiting for that first truly great horror movie.