The Black Room [Blu-ray]
Blu-ray ALL - America - Cleopatra Films / MVD Visual
Review written by and copyright: Eric Cotenas (21st September 2017).
The Film

Paul Hemdale (Lukas Hassel) and his wife Jennifer (Ghosts of Mars' Natasha Henstridge) make a killing on the purchase of a suburban McMansion that was abandoned fully-furnished by its owner Maggie Black (Insidious' Lin Shaye) after her granddaughter Dawn (Alex Rinehart) was badly burned in a freak accident involving the furnace in the basement, a fact reluctantly disclosed by driven real estate agent Monica (Tromeo and Juliet's Tiffany Shepis). In tracing a stray set of pipes from the furnace, pervy handyman Oscar (The Frightening's Robert Donavan) discovers a locked room in the basement. Unwittingly knocking loose a protective talisman embedded in the door, Oscar enters the titular "black room" and discovers occult symbols on the walls and floor before a malevolent force sucks him up into the darkness. Oscar's disappearance goes unnoticed by Paul and Jennifer who have other distractions from a visit by Jennifer's goth sister Karen (Spring's Augie Duke) to the bad timing in their sex life (with the supernatural presence taking advantage by venturing from the black room to molest them separately). Attempting to fix the washing machine which exploded after giving Jennifer the mother of all spin cycles, Paul discovers the black room and its spectral inhabitants tell them they need him to achieve their goals. Emerging a changed man, Paul flirts with anything in a skirt when he takes Jennifer and Karen out to dinner (dispensing "supernatural harassment" on a waitress who snarkily blows him off and giving another a remote orgasm). A discussion about Karen's interest in New Age mysticism leads to a suddenly-knowledgeable Paul warning her about messing with the occult by relating Maggie Black's encounter with the occult back in the seventies as a teenager (Spreading Darkness' Julia Lehman) when her basement party was crashed by a group of hippies who turned the blackroom into a vortex from which they summoned an incubus that ended up killing everyone but Maggie who managed to seal the creature in the room with the talisman; the moral of the story being that demons are not pets and cannot be controlled. Put off by Paul's flirting, which extended to a proposed threesome with Karen, Jennifer kicks him out of bed. Paul goes to Karen and gives her a gander of his supernaturally-enhanced physical assets and then his true demon form as he forces himself on her, killing her and claiming her body and soul for the black room. As he lures and gathers more victims including James Duval (The Doom Generation) as an ill-fated appliance repair man Jennifer is warned by disfigured Dawn about the demonic presence in her house and its intentions. After doing some research on incubi, Jennifer returns home to a surprise housewarming party being thrown by Paul with sexually-frustrated co-worker Howard (Caleb Scott) and his prudish wife Stacy (the Lolita remake's Dominique Swain) as the main course.

The demonic entity known as the incubus who ravishes and impregnates women in their sleep (and its female equivalent the succubus that drains the life force or sometimes literally the semen of a sleeping male) has been rather under-exploited in horror and erotic cinema despite its sexual nature with a few exceptions like Jess Franco's Succubus and Incubus (a DTV remake of his own Lorna the Exorcist), the Esperanto-language Incubus, John Hough's adaptation of Ray Russell's The Incubus, the Belgian-Italian The Devil's Nightmare, Amicus' And Now the Screaming Starts! (its literary source more so than the film), Wes Craven's Deadly Blessing, David DeCoteau's Nightmare Sisters and Dreamaniac, Serpent's Lair, and the Empire Pictures sci-fi/horror pic Transformations among others and the notion of a supernatural rapist is even dicier in these times than more permissive eras. Given the rather basic scenario, it is just as well that director Rolfe Kanefsky whose earlier Nightmare Man had a woman desperate to be pregnant suffer a nervous breakdown after being attacked by a fertility demon takes a blackly comic approach to the proceedings. The tone is disorienting at first as comely Rinehart has her nipples tweaked by invisibles fingers in a more technically proficient variation on the attacks of The Entity and Shaye, roused from her sleep, tells the frisky spirit to "shut the fuck up." Subsequently, the cockeyed approach takes the edge off of some gory death scenes and an actual rape by a phallic demon tail scene that "climaxes" in a grisley effects gag practical effects designed by Vincent J. Guastini (Spookies) that might have been inspired by an unfilmed but discussed scene from Alien. While the film even in its most humorous moments does not forget that it is a horror film and that the viewer is indeed supposed to care about the fate of its characters, the end results do feel kind of shallow when a more sober approach to the subject matter and characterization might have made the subject more unpleasant but dramatically satisfying. Henstridge, in a seeming reversal of her debut role in Species as a humanoid-looking alien driven to procreate, along with Hassel and Duke acquit themselves well enough with what they are given to have deserved more of the script. The film is nevertheless another interesting entry in Kanefsky's DTV career which started in the nineties with the Evil Dead-esque comedy There's Nothing Out There and has included some excursions out of the box amidst much of the DTV and cable softcore erotica that has kept his him working with writing and directing credits for series and franchises like Click, Sex Files, Emmanuelle 2000, and Emmanuelle Through Time among others, and The Black Room, despite its subject matter, is not a string of sex scenes buffered by plot, nor does it condescend to the usual soft focus sex scenes and slow-motion undraping of its cast members.

Video

Shot in HD with the Red Epic Dragon, the film looks professionally slick and Cleopatra Film's 1080p24 MPEG-4 AVC 2.40:1 widescreen BD25 encode is free of any glaring defects, which is really the least one can expect of Blu-rays of low-budget films from smaller companies (especially since it is only their second pressed Blu-ray, with a couple earlier titles only available in high definition as manuactured-on-demand BD-Rs).

Audio

The sole audio option is a Dolby Digital 5.1 track that is suitably playful for the budget in its placement of musical accompaniment, directional sound effects, and atmosphere (particularly in the basement and black room scenes).

Extras

Extras start off with a lively audio commentary by director Kanefsky, producer Esther Goodstein (One in the Gun), and actresses Henstridge & Duke. Kanefsky enjoys surprising them with the finished versions of practical and CGI effects as well as the final edits of scenes (usually then describing the techniques employed to the listener amidst the actress' reactions) - leading to joking remarks like "Nobody told me I was in porn," from Henstridge - and also points out his homages and inspirations (notably Rosemary's Baby and other seventies horror films). He also reveals that the project originated in a script he wrote twelve years previous and points out persons of note including punk rocker Al Jourgensen while Goodstein covers the practicalities of the shoot including effects achieved by fishing line and crew hands just off-camera, and the actresses discuss discuss their co-stars. Sixteen deleted/extended scenes (30:48) include extended openings and endings, a few other scene extensions and only a couple self-contained scenes, while the short behind the scenes (1:18) segment looks at the filming of the black room climax, and the blooper reel (1:12) includes the usual flubs and an amusing sight gag in which the black-barred time code obscures some accidental nudity, and the galleries include roughly forty storyboard images and thirty promotional and behind the scenes images in the slideshow. Two trailers for the film are also included.

Overall

 


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