'The Room' Review: Same old house of horrors is made better with its take on the 'Monkey's Paw' concept
There's a very popular concept of the Monkey's Paw when it comes to the twisted side of horror-fiction. First published as a short story in 1902, the titular paw is supposed to be enchanted with three wishes, and anybody who owns it will get those three wishes granted at the grave price of a very personal loss.
In the original story it is the pivotal family patriarch who wishes for the exact amount of money to pay his mortgage, and the next day his son dies by mutilation at work, thus earning the family compensation which is the same amount the father had wished for. The moral her being be careful what you wish for, but Christian Volckman tries to pass it off as an original in the 2019 film 'The Room', which is coming to Shudder soon.
It's a concept done an dusted, think 'The Conjuring' or the more recent 'You Should Have Left'. There's a creepy gigantic house in the middle of nowhere, but only here, instead of labyrinthine layers, there's a mysterious room where anything you wish for comes true. A stranded couple, Kate and Matt, move into the house as a flicker of hope for their marriage and as they try to work through their relationship, this titular room in the house becomes their only crutch.
The couple can't conceive and soon Kate has this brilliant idea of having a baby within the room's four walls but her husband Matt is shocked by the morbidity of it. How far can you tweak with fate without paying the consequences? His hesitation is met with Kate's exuberant eagerness at playing a part she believes will be able to sustain their relationship, but it only wedges the gap between the two further as the room intervenes with more than just its Schrodinger connotations.
Despite no novelty in the concept, what Volckman does with creative liberty is pretty great. The creator understands this isn't a stereotypical horror where the elements have to be grounded in their origin. Instead, he explores the now and present of the psychological thiol, without getting into the details of how the room came to be or who cursed it into existence. Those tropes work only in the Conjuring world. Even Netflix's 'The Haunting of Hill House' didn't explore origin stories for its murder house, and if that's a signature being established for psychological thrillers now, it's long overdue. But we're glad it's here finally.
Olga Kurylenko stuns as Kate. Her smug desperation and defiance towards the same person she was aching to reconnect with once she has a new motive in life is a reflection of more than just your regular struggles with conceiving. Kevin Janssens brings all the fear factor as Matt. In that, he isn't terrifying at all, but a marvelous expository trope for just how suspicious and afraid of the titular room's abilities one should be. Sadly, even with Volckman's commendable work as the director, the performances don't seem to blend together in a way one would imagine the story to become more about Kate and Matt as a couple, fighting to cling on to their sanity. But perhaps that is the purpose of the room. It separates the two as individuals and estimates if the strained marriage is actually worth fighting for.
While relatively light on the horrors, 'The Room' won't exactly linger on the mind or mail a deep mark, but it's worth a watch, even if it is a single time. Wishful thinking knows no limits and the film can really help ground your wants sometimes.
'The Room' will be available for rent and on demand digitally this July 21.