If you’ve watched enough horror movies, one thing – among many others – you’ll learn is that a gaping hole never goes anywhere good. More often than not, they just lead to Hell or other nasty inter-dimensional places. Whether it’s holes in the ground (The Gate, The Hole in the Ground) or holes in the wall (Cat’s Eye), they are bad news. This past April, supernatural thriller Room 203 made its way to select theatres before arriving on VOD platforms. It’s premise of a gaping hole in an apartment room wall as a potential gateway for demonic evil sounds promising. To date, critics have been lukewarm on the results.
Best friends Kim and Izzy have found the perfect apartment in an old, refurbished commerce building. After her mother’s accidental overdose, Izzy wants to start over. And Kim wants to find some independence from her controlling parents. Like any old building, the apartment comes with its own quirks, including a large oddly-themed stain glass window and a hole in the wall that can’t seem to be fixed. As each night passes, however, the friends become convinced that something sinister lurks inside their new home.
Room 203 Struggles to Justify its Bloated Length
Somewhere in Room 203 was a good movie waiting to jump out and scare you out of your seat. That opening prologue promises something pretty dreadful. Writer and director Ben Jagger – working from Nanami Kamon’s novel – crafts a genuinely disturbing and shocking scene that gives way to the opening credits. Over its first act, Room 203 establishes a consistently foreboding atmosphere. Specifically, Jagger makes his movie’s setting – both the building and room itself – like characters themselves. He makes good use of lighting and space to create a feeling of unease. And the hole in the wall, which looks like a gaping wound, opens numerous possibilities for what may follow.
While there’s an interesting concept here, Room 203 doesn’t have enough story to justify running to a near two hours in length.
Despite this promising start, Room 203 loses is ways and, ultimately, feels unsatisfying. It doesn’t so much derail itself as it drags to a long, slow grind. While there’s an interesting concept here, Room 203 doesn’t have enough story to justify running to a near two hours in length. No amount of atmosphere can fill the gaps that eventually appear by the movie’s second act. Though Jagger conjures up some decent jump scares, they’re too few and far apart. By the time Room 203 reaches its climax, you’re more interested in the story just wrapping up then feeling emotionally invested in any particular resolution.
Room 203 Forgoes an Interesting Premise for Generic Storytelling
Arguably, Room 203 boasts plenty of style – Jagger shows he’s capable of creating atmosphere and scares. Maybe the finger is best pointed at the creative decisions and storytelling. While the premise holds promise, the story ultimately falls victim to generic supernatural tropes. Characters run around investigating possible sources of the strange happenings. Not surprisingly, there’s Internet information telling telling us the identity of our demon followed by some exposition. In addition, Room 203 sets aside its focus on the friendship between Kim and Izzy in favour of Kim’s budding relationship. Both Francesca Xuereb (Kim) and Viktoria Vinyarska (Izzy) deliver strong performances. And their friendship lends the movie an emotional core, whereas Kim’s dating life feels like unnecessary filler.
Maybe the finger is best pointed at the creative decisions and storytelling. While the premise holds promise, the story ultimately falls victim to generic supernatural tropes.
Another elephant in the room is the lingering question of that hole in wall. From its opening scene, Room 203 promises unimaginable horror lurking behind the wall. But Jagger does almost nothing with this potential. Movies with much smaller budgets have managed some mind-bending visions of Hell. Instead, Room 203 opts to use Scott Gremillion’s awkward landlord ‘Ronan’ as a stand-in for the evils of the other side. Though Gremillion is fine as a creepy red herring, he lacks the menace needed to create a sense of urgency for the climax.
Room 203 Proves to be All Filler, No Thriller
Despite an interesting premise and strong opening, Room 203 ultimately proves to be a lackluster effort. In fact, it’s difficult to actually make it through to the end of the movie. Among its biggest problems, Room 203 really stretches its story thin. Nothing about this movie justifies its nearly two hour runtime. Moreover, an interesting ideas gives way to derivative storytelling and an underwhelming finale. And that hole in the wall doesn’t amount to much. Not even a single peek at what might have been on the other side.