The Quiet Room
When Michael's attempt at suicide awakens a psych ward demon, he must stop her before she kills everyone in the hospital he connects with.
What does it mean if a horror film is more effective in its straight-up dramatic moments, than it is in its horrific and meant-to-be scary sequences?
That’s the question I have to ask myself when screening a new short film called The Quiet Room, written and directed by Sam Wineman.
Michael (Jamal Douglas) has been admitted to a local psych ward following a tragedy in his life, and his subsequent suicide attempt. He makes some friends, including a nurse named Amy (A Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and 5’s Lisa Wilcox) and he makes a romantic connection with fellow patient Hunter (Mad Men’s Kitt Williamson). There’s an urban legend in the ward – about a demon named Hattie – and Michael will soon learn that Hattie may be more than just a story.
The film never does enough to up the ante as far as suspense, build or scares. There are a couple of decent “boo” moments, but it’s the film’s quieter scenes (i.e. character/acting moments) which will most impress.
The delicate and blossoming relationship between Michael and Hunter feels authentic and endearing, and it’s that spot-on chemistry which overtakes the film.
Douglas’ lead performance feels a bit wishy-washy. He’s got some tremendously strong moments (his emotional connection with Williamson), but when he’s being “broody” (as Nurse Amy describes the character at one point) – it doesn’t quite work. Part of the problem is that his moroseness (expected based on the character’s recent history) fails to engage. Perhaps it’s because we never know what Michael was like prior to this depression. I found it difficult to get on board with his character from the get-go. Again, in his moments in the hospital room with Hunter – some of that redeems. Overall, it’s not a completely solid performance, and so the film suffers.
Lisa Wilcox has but a few moments on-screen, and you’ll wish she had more. She’s always a welcome addition to any cast – and her moments here are no exception. There are some lovely and heartfelt exchanges between Amy and Michael.
The make-up for “Hattie” is well done. But the performance calls to mind nothing more than the usual “Asian horror-inspired, damp, stringy-haired brunette girls”. There’s the usual cracking of bones/joints and the hair covering her face. Sadly, that already tired trope doesn’t do much to inspire fear anymore – and that includes this now typical scary presence in The Quiet Room.
But the gore effects are plentiful and convincing.
The production is pretty sleek. But again – with an on again, off again performance from the lead and a cliched villain (in concept as well as execution) – the piece isn’t particularly memorable.
At a bit of a “short film” stretch, the film clocks in at 28 minutes. Again, I would have liked to see more of Michael’s history – and that would have allowed us some insight into how he came to this point in his life and helped to drum up some extra sympathy. As is, the character’s just a little too emo for me to really care.
Bottom line – the character interactions (namely Hunter and Michael) are well done, but the film fails to truly get under your skin.
The Quiet Room has been playing at a few showcases, but no wider release information (online or at festivals) is yet available.