While “Doom Room” doesn’t completely deliver on its high concept, it remains an emotional, thought provoking horror film worth checking out.
Editor’s Note: I first discovered this film back in 2016 under its original title “Nightmare Box”. The film finished production in 2013 before having a successful festival run in 2014, winning numerous awards. For some reason, it never received the widespread distribution it deserved, until it was recently picked up by Wild Eye Releasing and retitled “Doom Room”. If you’d like to read my original review for the film, you can do so here. And be sure to check out another great take on it from our writer Patrick below.
At first glance, Wild Eye Releasing’s new film DOOM ROOM, seems very similar in concept to the classic Korean thriller, OLDBOY.
A woman, credited as Jane Doe (Johanna Stanton), wakes up in a locked room. Jane Doe has no memory of her past, why she is imprisoned, or where she is imprisoned. As Jane Doe begins to examine her cell room, she is visited by a number of phantasms that may hold clues to her imprisonment and past.
Beyond the setup of the story, DOOM ROOM loses any similarity to OLDBOY. DOOM ROOM suggests something, possibly paranormal, is happening. As the ghostly figures enter and leave at will, Jane Doe is trapped with no discernible way out of the room. The different apparitions also have specific reasons for appearing.
One apparition judges Jane Doe’s behavior; one is there for support; one gives her instructions and warnings; and two apparitions credited as Husband (Matthew Tompkins) and Wife (Debbie Rochon) are there to frighten, torture, and at times sexually assault Jane Doe.
All of these apparitions are clues for Jane Doe and the audience. It doesn’t take long to figure out what is going on in DOOM ROOM.
Figuring out the twists and turns of DOOM ROOM doesn’t take away from the story, as I don’t believe DOOM ROOM is meant to completely surprise the audience as to what’s happening to Jane Doe. But once you’ve unlocked the mystery of Jane Doe’s imprisonment, there does come a bit of impatience waiting for Jane Doe to catch up.
I like what writer/director Jon Keeyes is attempting to do with the story, which makes me wish I had liked the film more than I did. Keeyes is diving into some highly evocative and emotional territory, and DOOM ROOM deserved more time examining Jane Doe and her interactions with the spirits. They hold the key to her past and future, but the interactions between them and Jane Doe are emotionally thin. In the case of the spirit that judges her past behavior, the dialogue is so over-the-top with vulgarities that it comes across as ridiculous in the moment.
The acting, especially from Johanna Stanton in a role that requires her to carry the movie, is top notch. The movie looks fantastic, and the set design of the cell room contains many clues to Jane Doe’s predicament as well. I would suggest that multiple viewings might bring more attention to those background clues.
I left DOOM ROOM wanting something more in-depth and tugging harder on the emotional strings; but overall, DOOM ROOM is a solid, well-acted movie.