“The Dead Room” was written by Kevin Stevens and director Jason Stutter who crafter a story seen many times to which they unfortunately bring very little that is new and very few genuine scares. After a family flees their new home in fear for their lives, a trio of investigators is sent by an insurance company to prove or disprove the family’s claim that it’s haunted by malevolent spirits. The haunted house sub-genre having been done to death over the last few years and throughout horror’s history is not re-invented here. Stevens and Stutter do have the advantage of being one of the few films about this set in New Zealand that I know of.
The setting outside of the house is stunning but only seen for a few moments. The house is a basic small house that any family could live in, setting up a familiar place to be haunted which should bring the scares by bringing it home for the viewers, but so little happens for so long, the viewer is just waiting for it by the time the first phenomenon happens. On the plus side, the characters going through this, two paranormal investigators and one psychic, feel like normal humans just doing a job, making them relatable. These three characters are fairly compelling and are never over-the-top or ridiculous. The dialogue feels natural, like something people with their knowledge of the paranormal and in their situation would say. The lead cast, composed of Jed Brophy and Jeffrey Thomas as the paranormal investigators and Laura Petersen as the psychic, is good and does well with the material they have here.
All three of them carry the film as an ensemble and play well against one another. Their parts are very much one would expect, which gives them little room for creativity. Yes, the investigators are there to prove there are no ghosts as opposed to the usual of proving their presence and the psychic is not particularly eccentric as we are used to see but on the whole, these characters are fairly basic and interpreted as such. The effects in The Dead Room are minimal and mostly kept to the second half of the film. What there is is well done but it does not rewrite the book on ghost effects. They look good and are effective but as the movie as a whole is not very effective, these effects are mostly wasted or go unnoticed. One thing must be noted; the scenes set un the dark look really good, even when watching in non HD.
The way they are shot, their lighting scheme look very good and definitely add to the film, unfortunately they come off a bit as “too little too late”. The Dead Room is not a bad film per se; it’s not a good film either. It’s a just middle of the road, a bit bland with a lot of déjà vu. As a fan of ghost stories, someone who gets scared by them, this film was underwhelming at best. The acting is good, the effects are decent, but the story takes too long to get anywhere with not enough tension, mystery, and ghosts to sustain a feature length film of the haunting sub-genre. It’s an inoffensive film that may work on newbies to the genre but will have most others wondering when it gets good and when it gets to its point, it will feel like it waited too long to get really good.