The Dead Room Blu-ray Review
Written by ZigZag
Blu-ray released by Scream Factory
Directed by Jason Stutter
Written by Kevin Stevens and Jason Stutter
2015, 78 minutes, Not Rated
Blu-ray released on September 6th, 2016
Jeffrey Thomas as Scott Cameron
Laura Petersen as Holly Matthews
Jed Brophy as Liam Andrews
A trio of paranormal investigators finds more than they expect at a recently-abandoned farmhouse where the previous tenants simply walked away, claiming poltergeist activity. Holly, a young psychic medium, is able to sense the spirit haunting the house and encourages the team to leave immediately, an idea firmly supported by Liam the tech guy. Seasoned group leader Scott Cameron insists they stick around for further proof, as he has seen a lot of cons in his day, but holds out hope of discovering irrefutable evidence when it comes to the supernatural. What follows is an object lesson in the effects of meddling with things you do not understand.
The less I reveal about The Dead Room the better, as I was pleasantly surprised by how well the story unfolds and the inclusion of a third act plot twist caught me off guard and proved actually satisfying. Director Jason Stutter co-wrote the script with Kevin Stevens and understands the show don’t tell art of storytelling without slogging through pained exposition. The film’s sleek running time (78 minutes) demands things move at a decent pace, yet Stutter manages to build an atmosphere thick with tension and dread as the malevolent spirit grows more aggressive while the group struggles to understand the gravity of their situation. By casting relative unknowns in the roles of Scott, Holly and Liam, there is no clear protagonist, as each character is developed just enough to make audiences pull for all three. Jed Brophy’s Liam is seen briefly Skyping with his family, giving him incentive to return home safely, while Laura Petersen’s Holly appears genuinely uncomfortable with her psychic gift. She knows she is here for a reason, but is quick to place the team’s safety first, as she cannot control what she is witnessing. The most complicated character is Scott, the veteran investigator leading this expedition. Jeffrey Thomas does an excellent job with this flawed individual whose pride leads to miscalculations that prove both dangerous and damning. Serious genre fans will recognize his voice as the narrator of Peter Jackson’s faux documentary Forgotten Silver (1995).
I am surprised when I heap praise on an independent feature like The Stranger (2014), only to discover that the film is unanimously loathed or dismissed by critics and audiences alike. Meanwhile, titles like It Follows or more recently Don’t Breathe get overly praised as the second coming of the genre, and I end up not liking either. Maybe I am out of touch, but what I find appealing about these smaller films is their ability to generate suspense and atmosphere rather than relying on the lazy jump scare so popular in mainstream movies. Obviously the best results stem from a filmmaker being challenged to solve problems through creativity rather than just throwing money at it. One of the biggest obstacles facing The Dead Room is the home video ad campaign, in that the poster art has nothing to do with the film itself and the main image on the back cover is not from this movie either. This is not the best haunted house film I have seen, but it is one of the stronger entries in recent offerings and I can recommend it for that alone.
Video and Audio:
Grant Atkinson’s cinematography benefits from a gorgeous transfer that preserves the film’s original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. Contrast levels are rich and the numerous scenes set in the shadows are all the more effective. Flesh tones appear natural throughout and there is plenty of small-object detail.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 really packs a punch, making great use of all speakers, especially when the spirits are agitated. Bass levels are robust without interfering with either music or dialogue levels.
Optional English and Spanish subtitles are included for anyone in need.
The only supplement on this disc is the theatrical trailer that is a bit too revealing.