Movie Review - The Black Room
Updated: May 9, 2018
I am the god of hellfire...and I bring you...
Sleazy mediocrity. That's what the god of hellfire brought me.
While not completely gonzo, The Black Room was still one of the more interesting things I've seen on Netflix. Take a slice of 70's exploitation horror, a hefty serving of 80's cheese, a dash of 90's star power, and voila...you have created The Black Room.
Let's be honest...we aren't watching this one for the acting or the story...this is all about low-rent horror of a variety that you rarely see anymore. This is the kind of movie that teenage me would have been all over. And you know, for a low-budget entry into the horror genre, it isn't half bad. Which also means it isn't half good... But the filmmaker tries for something different and edgy, the kind of movie you won't see at the cineplex, so I'm willing to be a little generous. Ultimately, your enjoyment will depend on how much you are willing to just ignore some of the cheese and roll with what's unfolding.
The basic summary is this; there's a house in the greater LA area with a cellar where some creepy shit went down. Due to some supernatural shenanigans involving ghost rape, wall portals, and a light-up antique wall hanging, the house is now vacant. Cue the moving in by a successful and attractive couple, who just can't believe their luck that they got this fantastic house (still furnished!) at such a great bargain. But, they have barely gotten through the door before they are hearing strange noises coupled with some other bizarre occurrences. Something is alive down in that cellar, something with lustful appetites and no qualms about killing any hapless fool who wanders into that dark downstairs.
Admittedly, as a horror movie, The Black Room struggles. The directing and cinemetography don't really impart a sense of dread or terror, and even the attempted jump scares really aren't...jumpy. The acting ranges from competent to pretty damn awful, and the music is all over the place. Really, this seems like more of a late-night Cinemax softcore offering, with some attemped body horror thrown in. There's even a brief nod to anime tentacle films...which blew my mind that it was shown on Netflix. It's not SUPER graphic or anything, but it was still strange to see it on this streaming service. Some of the tawdry elements in this movie are obviously there to titillate, but some of them I think are also there in service to the plot, which is basically that of a horny demon looking to conquer the world with sex and mind/body control. You know, like you do.
It's been a while since I've seen Natasha Henstridge in a film, and I have to say she's still got it. I remember her back when Species first came out, which was a great little creature horror film for its time. And while she isn't the creature this time around, the two films do share a bit in common. So she's on familiar ground, and brings a smidge of star power. And she also doesn't look like she's aged a day! Wherever she's getting her virgin blood to bathe in, it's definitely working. The only other instantly recognizable actor in the movie is former scream queen Lin Shaye, whom you've seen in the Insidious and Ouija movies. Her role here is much the same as those other movies, only on a much smaller scale. There are a few other "I think I've seen them before" actors, but nobody that really stands out. Tiffany Shepis, a scream queen in her own right, is wasted in a real estate agent role.
Trashy, campy, and feeling like a "straight to video" feature from a few decades ago, The Black Room might be writer/director Rolfe Kanefsky's ode to the heyday of horror movies, or he might be permanently stuck in 13 year old boy mode. Most of the dialogue is either extremely stilted or heavily innuendo-laden, and the nudity is all over the board. I can admire the adherence to a strictly low-budget and old-school feel, but there were parts of The Black Room that felt rather lazy. The soundtrack is a hot mess, featuring some halfway decent bits coupled with a whole lot of excursions into WTFsville. There's operatic pieces, goofy string pieces, and then a halfway decent synth score (a la Stranger Things) over the closing credits. Oh, and the psychedelic pseudo-James Bond opening is some strange and trippy shit.
At the end of the day, you get what you pay for. Everything about this movie screams low-rent, but that might have been the intent. Ultimately, this will be something that teen boys are going to stream after their parents go to bed, enticed by the promise of skin and scares. It's definitely not the worst thing I've ever seen, so I can't be too harsh on it. At the same time, it's far more cheesy than scary, so it gets a major ding for that. Nudity is great, and traditionally works well in horror movies, but I need some actual scares with my skin if I'm going to be entertained. The funny thing is, I can actually see this working as a book. The whole concept would have been much better if it had some room to breathe and grow, giving our characters a little more time to be established before all the crazy shit went down. Honestly, that's not something I'd say much about horror movies, since actually seeing the terror on screen is what makes horror movies as effective as they. But The Black Room would have worked much better as an erotic horror novel.
2 out of 5 gropey stars!
1) Ginsu door! Removes fingers while you wait!
2) Washing machine orgasm! Or...almost...she was almost there!
3) Wow. And I usually really dig goth girls.
4) Coffee cup proxy vagina (you'll understand when you see it!)
5) That's a WAY different take on a glory hole!
6) Holy crap! I can't believe they showed that on Netflix. OH! And THAT too!
7) That is one BIG ass used bookstore! We need more of those where I live!
Plenty of T&A, quasi-hentai action, ghost rape (of both a men AND women), lots of sexy talk, and just a general naughty vibe.
Natasha Henstridge comes across pretty well, while everyone else (even Lin Shaye) just seems to be there for a quick buck.
Despite the fact that this was shot at real locations (always a bonus), it just falls flat. Cinematography is competent at best.
Pretty much the only area where the movie doesn't skimp. Decapitated fingers, plenty of demon violence, and barbed tentacle penetration.
Aside from a decent choral piece near the end, and the actually good synth score over the end credits, nothing of note here.