On the way to a competition, a group of roller derby enthusiasts picks up a stranded couple so that they can all get stranded together…in an abandoned old folks home…with a killer apparition…that likes to gouge out victims’ eyes. So what does “room 33” have to do with all this? Don’t expect me to be able to answer that question by the end of this blog.
The cast is particularly good for a low-budget indie. They better be, considering they have so many horror cliché staples of other movies to mimic: the pervy chubby guy (with a camera); the tough chick (with a bat); the scared black dude (eventually with a gun that suddenly makes him the black thug); the smart girl (with…a brain); the almost forgettable chick (with very few distinguishable personality traits—I seriously nearly forgot to mention her in this post); and the incredibly adorable all-American boy (with the name Chad both in the movie and in real life). Life’s clichés write themselves sometimes. To break his squeaky clean mold (I’d gladly do that for him), Chad also played gay in a movie called RockBarnes: The Emperor in You (that would be the hot mesh look). He was also in horror flicks like Lake Placid 2 and Legion of the Dead.
And then there’s my favorite—the totally oblivious chick who goes off to roller skate on the deserted, remarkably well-paved country road to become the first victim. The POV through the trees along with her awesome outfit of tight short shorts, tube top, and tube socks really sets you up for a throwback to old school slashers. But the film is more a culmination of forty years of horror conventions than an homage to any specific, superior decade of slashers (to what decade could this Gen-Xer possibly be referring?).
The rest of the kids in the building discover a scared girl who can only seem to repeat over and over that “he” killed them. There are quick flashes of slashes from the past. A particular hallway of the building repeatedly gets major screen time. There are arguments as to whether to worry about the crazy girl or leave her behind…and as to whether she’s the killer once the bodies start piling up. And yet none of it feels all that intriguing.
There’s also the gullible cop who comes along and is offed immediately. There’s some sexual tension between characters. There are files and clues around the building that give the smart girl reason to suspect something sinister went on there. And even though the kids know a killer is roaming the halls, they constantly split up and leave members of their party alone—like even more often than in your average slasher.
And finally, there’s the killer—a teleporting, occasionally demon-eyed ghost who releases a shrill squeal when he opens his mouth. Again, it’s nothing you haven’t seen before and his appearances are rather flat—you’re just never scared or startled by them and his presence simply doesn’t bring any sense of dread to the movie.
There’s not a lot of gore; the movie relies on atmosphere and mystery, both of which totally let it down! This film has a solid foundation and is very routine yet doesn’t deliver any outstanding chills or thrills. The serious tone lacks any intensity and the backstory just isn’t all that compelling. I mean, the tough chick roller blades around the building angrily banging her bat against everything in her hunt for the killer, and that doesn’t even manage to come across as unintentionally funny, which would at least give the movie some memorable character.
Room 33 is one of those instances in which an indie flick is more technically impressive than it is an engrossing horror experience. Many plot points are left dangling without explanation or resolution. Even room 33 loses any relevance as the truth unfolds. Some characters suddenly appear on screen in the last few minutes just for the sake of throwing wrenches into the plot—which comes to a hasty end that lacks any real punch, just like the rest of the movie.
I really can’t believe I spent this much time on a movie I will totally forget in a few weeks. I think what’s so fascinating about it is that it’s not a bad movie yet it’s not a good movie. How often does that happen? Luckily, I’ll have this blog as a reference when I want to remember everything I’m about to forget.