Doom Room Movie Review
Written by Stuart D. Monroe
Released by Wild Eye Releasing
Directed by Jon Keeyes
Written by Jon Keeyes and Carl Kirshner
2019, 92 minutes, Not Rated
Released on January 15th, 2019
Debbie Rochon as Wife
Matthew Tompkins as Husband
Johanna Stanton as Jane Doe
Hayden Tweedie as Innocence
Nicholas Ball as Man
You don’t have to look extremely close at most fairy tales to see what they’re really talking about; the moral of the story, if you will. Additionally, a lot of the ones we’ve grown up on are grounded in much nastier tales that have been softened to be more palatable for the younger generation. The sharp edges have been rounded, the teeth have been filed down to make the predator appear to be more genteel. The true story behind it all is often never even acknowledged.
Thankfully, that isn’t the case with the highly allegorical Doom Room.
Jane Doe (Johanna Stanton; Sinatra: All or Nothing at All) awakens in a seedy locked room with no memory of how she got there. There’s a grungy mattress on a raised bed, a sturdy metal door, and macabre decorations. There’s also a slew of paranormal figures taunting her. Some of them, like the Husband (Matthew Tompkins; The Harrowing) and Wife (Debbie Rochon; Santa Claws, Tromeo and Juliet), are abusive. Innocence (Hayden Tweedie; Barney and Friends) is a childlike and tender-hearted little doll who’s trying to help her. There’s a woman with no eyes and a mute man who speaks in a bastardized form of charades. All these figures are helping her to unlock her memories and figure out her story. She may not like the answers presented.
Based on true events of a young woman who was kept in a tiny box underneath the bed of a sadistic married couple for seven years, Doom Room was originally released as Nightmare Box in 2013. I must admit that I haven’t seen the original version to be able to say what (if any) the difference is between the two. I just want to put that out there for the sake of full disclosure.
The presentation is effective stuff, though. The first third or so is the establishment end, dolling out little pieces of information as you try to figure out who these figures are and what they represent. It’s pure psychology, taking you on a trip through the mind of a woman who has spent a considerable amount in a figurative hell and can never be the same as a result. Jane Doe is played with just the right amount of shellshock by Stanton. She’s resourceful enough to put the pieces together but still damaged enough to remain trapped in this next phase of her nightmare.
The last two-thirds of the film kick into high gear as the truth of what is happening to her comes to the front in a jarring series of mental doors being unlocked. The constant presence of the lecherous Husband is unsettling. However, he’s outshined by the Wife. Debbie Rochon is a B-movie Hall of Famer and one of the more underrated talents out there, and she goes deeply method in what may be the meatiest role in the movie. The Wife herself is a victim of the Husband. The only difference is that she has someone to take it out on while Jane Doe has no such recourse. Most of the film’s nastiness comes from Rochon giving it every ounce of abnormal psychology she can muster, which is no small amount.
That’s where Doom Room shows surprising restraint, staying away from torture-porn territory. There’s no doubt what kind of awful things have happened to her, but by keeping from going full Last House on the Left in tone, the movie is able to retain that dark fairy tale aesthetic that gives it such a different flavor. The ending gives a finish that is both logical and packs a punch.
The small budget does show in more than a few shots, but that’s hardly a major con. The stronger independent works manage to elevate past those constraints with a mix of solid story, unique angle, and powerful performances. All those elements are in play here and go a fair way towards making it easy to forgive the sometimes-cheap look.
Ultimately, Doom Room will find a place amongst its contemporaries by being something they’re not – tastefully dark and psychologically crafted without having to go straight to shock. It’s an uncommon combination that leaves an impression, a fine example of a B-movie that has much to say.