Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Inner Room and Requiring a Shot of Adrenalin Early: A Movie Review

*full disclosure: a screener of this film was provided by writer Mark Diestler.

Director: Jack Gastelbondo.

Writers: Jack Gastelbondo, and Mark Diestler.

Tagline: "The Past Never Dies."

The Inner Room is a film from first time feature film director Jack Gastelbondo and writer Mark Diestler. The film deals with a relationship falling apart because of a lost child, at a very slow pace. The use of characters is sparse, with two primary and two minor. Arguably, there are a few more minor charcters, but this lack of a diverse cast creates for an uncomplex script. The plotline, if you are cynical reviewer, can be broken down pretty quickly: are the visions caused because of the lack of medication or because of a haunting? However, Gastelbondo seems happy to experiment with filmmaking with the inclusion of blue and washed out filters, along with other filmmaking techniques. The slow pacing really drained the entertainment factor out of this film for this reviewer.

Julianne (Jessica Duffy) and Chris (Marty Lindsey) are a married couple setting out for that horror cliche of old, the isolated cabin. Here, they try and repair their marriage which has been shaken after the death of their child. Julianne's visions of figures in doorways or in the nearby forest do not help matters, while Chris tries to distract himself with photography. An initial hook is skipped in favour of dialogue, lots of dialogue. Not much of this chatter answers the important questions, or the simple ones like: why are they at the cabin?. Later, Julianne's visions begin to show some credibility when a grave is found in their rental's backyard. Then, in the final third of the film, Gastelbondo and Diestler pull out all the stops.

But, by this time it is too late. The lack of subplots and characters make the story too straight forward. For there to be any mystery some distractions were necessary, red herrings or the inclusion of a larger cast. The story is thus too simple either due to budget constraints or a conservative script. Subplots do rear their heads at the halfway mark in the form of a nosy neighbour and in stories of disappearances. However, at this point this reviewer's attention span was wavering. And before you ask again, no, this reviewer does not have ADHD. An initial exciting hook and some misdirections early would have gone a long way to satisfying this critical reviewer.

So, the lack of initial action turns The Inner Room into a brutal slow burn. There really is very little excitement in this film until the climax. The story really needed to be propelled in a stronger fashion, while still including the developing characterizations. Thankfully, some of Gastelbondo's directing techniques keep the visual sphere interesting e.g. slow reel distortion, dual images in frame, match on action and the aforementioned filters. The director is not afraid to experiment; but, with the small budget there really are limits on what can be accomplished. As well, the grueling first two thirds of the film are offset by Gastelbondo's score, with the director performing double and triple duty on the project. Overall, the developments in the story are stretched out too much in the presence of a predictable plotline.

Filmmakers might find some interesting film elements in this picture to study. Most viewers will not be entertained by this piece, which is more psychological thriller than horror. The thrills only come near the end. As well, film fans of drama might find some of the dialogue and interplay between Julianne and Chris entertaining, some might not. Most horror fans will not be satisfied with this outing, outside of an axe swing or bleeding wound. There are only a few elements of horror here including ghosts, graves and one cleverly disguised killer. This reviewer would not recommend The Inner Room to most audiences.

Story/plot/script: 6 (the film stays in first gear for way too long).
Characters/believability: 7 (more characters needed, good casting).
Directing techniques/ pacing: 6.5 (experimental, surreal, brutal pacing).

Overall: 6.5 out of 10.

*releases on DVD October 11th.

A second review of this title at the Recorder Online (Thomas N.):

The Inner Room at Recorder Online

More details on this film can be found at The Inner Room fan page:

The Inner Room at Facebook

The Inner Room at Amazon:

The Inner Room at Amazon

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