Lionsgate // 2007 // 91 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Joel Pearce (Retired) // December 20th, 2008
Something is haunted in the state of Denmark.
The experience of watching Room 205 is kind of like having a drunken one-night stand. At the time, you feel like you're having oodles of fun, but a couple days later the details start to fade, and you begin to wonder what you were thinking. While it's a well-crafted film, the script and performances leave much to be desired.
Room 205 tells the story of Katrine (Neel Ronholt), a troubled girl who moves into a college dorm. There, she finds several walking stereotypes: the bitchy girl in the next room, the jock that wants to get into her pants, and a zero-personality blonde who practically has "first to die" tattooed on her forehead. When Katrine awakens a ghost from decades before, it starts killing her heartless roommates, but since they blame her for the deaths, she feels obligated to end the terror. To accomplish this, she enlists the aid of Rolf (Mikkel Arendt), a nerdy yet handsome guy who knows all about ghosts who appear in mirrors.
Yeah, it's a plot we've all heard before, and it doesn't play out any different in Denmark. The story is bland, and although there is some interesting mythology surrounding the ghost and mirrors, it's never explained well enough to have resonance. We never get to know Katrine well enough to care about what happens to her, and the other characters are simply there to support the sagging script. To make matters worse, the first half of the film is painfully slow, and will probably send most horror fans out the door by the time that things really kick up.
In a way, it's too bad, because once things get moving, Room 205 is a slick and scary little ghost movie. Director Martin Barnewitz is obviously a big fan of both American and Asian horror cinema, and has impeccable timing for scare sequences. Things jump out at the exact right moments, suspense is built up perfectly, and the film is more gory than most teen ghost movies. These scenes are a total blast to watch, and we are left wondering why there aren't more of them.
The cinematography is also consistently impressive. Barnewitz has a great eye for color and lighting, making this one of the most beautiful horror films I've seen since A Tale of Two Sisters. Even in the dramatic sequences, rooms are filled with eerie light, soft focus creates beautiful shapes, shadows extend deep into hallways...I was consistently blown away by how great Room 205 looks.
Because of that, I wasn't bothered by some strange plot devices until after the film was over. If several teens are savagely murdered in the dorm, and most of the students blame Katrine for the deaths, then why isn't she questioned by the police? Indeed, do they have police in Denmark? Scenes of serial murders don't tend to get back to normal very quickly. Perhaps the police are simply able to recognize immediately that Katrine couldn't be the killer -- indeed, it's hard to imagine a slender girl being able to tackle a burly jock in an elevator, subdue him while also prying the elevator doors open and pushing him through. There are a few other such nagging questions, which begin as soon as the thrill of such great horror sequences start to fade.
Lionsgate has done a fine job with the disc. The video transfer is impressive, doing relatively good work with the film's vibrant cinematography. The lower quality of the film stock shows clearly, but the black level and colors are great. There's excessive grain in some sequences, but I think that's as much the fault of the stock as the transfer. The sound transfer is even better. I strongly recommend the original Danish track, as the English dub makes the characters even worse, but the 5.1 track is delightfully monstrous, making full use of all channels and liberal use of the LFE track. In terms of special features, there is a commentary track with Barnewitz, who talks about the film (in English) with great enthusiasm. The only other feature is the requisite production featurette.
As I was ending Room 205, I fully expected to write a hesitantly positive review. I'm glad I waited, though, because a couple of days have left me with a nasty movie hangover, one that I wouldn't want to share with the Verdict readership. As it stands, I can really only recommend it to serious horror fans, who appreciate great cinematography but also have the patience to slog through the tepid sequences. Most others will be long asleep by the time the excitement picks up.
Room 205 is guilty of making me feel lousy the next day.
Review content copyright © 2008 Joel Pearce; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Danish)
Running Time: 91 Minutes
Release Year: 2007
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Production Featurette
* Official Site