Have you ever wondered what it would be like to have a drug trip so bad, that you couldn’t tell reality from now and five minutes ago? Ever considered what it would be like to have your brain literally melt and ooze out of your ears into a nasty, pink, bubbling puddle on the floor? Well guess what? Now you can have that unpleasant experience in the safety of your own home by checking out Doom Room from Wild Eye Releasing…
…Directed by Jon Keeyes (The Harrowing), and written by Keeyes and Carl Kirshner (Nightmare Box), Doom Room is an unapologetic mindfuck which centers around Jane Doe (Johanna Stanton), a woman who wakes up in a strange room without any recollection of how she got there or who she is. Unable to leave and harassed by a group of frightening entities, she must uncover the riddle of who she is and why she is here if she has any hope of escaping.
Doom Room takes absolutely zero time in trying to ease the audience into what is happening here. Beginning with a series of flashes at a goth club to the beat of music that’ll make your ears bleed, we’re suddenly transported into this metaphorical room with Jane. Because Jane has no idea who she is, Keeyes wastes little time in throwing a whole lot of “what the hell is happening” imagery at us, introducing a woman with her eyes sealed shut, a mute man, a sinister BDSM couple, and an innocent girl which seems to have no place here, all within a matter of minutes. Doom Room is as chaotic as a heavy metal riff, and it’s a feeling that you had better strap in for, because “chaos” is the word of the day for Keeyes’ film.
To say that Doom Room has a dream-like quality would be an understatement. Flip-flopping between dream and nightmare, Doom Room is about as the clown sex that occurs later on. Yes, clown sex. Because of that, it’s impossible to know for sure what is happening in the film, which is both its strength and its curse. The filmmakers don’t intend on holding the viewer’s hand throughout the experience, which is fun for those seeking a psychological mind melt, but can also be a confusing chore. After all, it isn’t easy to keep up with a film where characters keep appearing and reappearing, no one offers even a hint at a name, and the audience is clued into what is happening with as much knowledge as Jane has, maybe even less.
The premise allows for an experimental approach, which Keeyes takes advantage of through the use of dreamlike red and green lighting, coupled with a grimy look that gives us the sensation of being at a decrepit strip club during last call, when the private rooms have reached max stickiness. Which is fitting. After all, Doom Room is, at its sticky core, a film which explores the darkest elements of sex and desire. Surrounding Jane in her home away from home are chains, dusty mattresses, sensual candles, pornographic imagery, you know, the usual stuff to help get you in the mood. Then there are characters like the wife (played by the great Debbie Rochon), dressed in a wedding dress covered in chains and leather straps, and oh, her breasts are exposed, because why not. Doom Room is like Hellraiser, without the insane gore and terror. The film revels in sexual oddities and humiliation, such as a much too long scene in which a woman is blindfolded and spanked for nearly five minutes. There’s even a man wearing a mask with a giant dildo for a nose. Which just seems impractical.
Where the actual horror in Doom Room comes from isn’t in the strangeness of it all, but the way in which Jane is treated. Outside of two characters known only as Man (Nicholas Ball) and Innocence (Hayden Tweedie), Jane is constantly abused, threatened, and insulted by the entities haunting the room with her. She is held down, raped, tied up, beaten, made to watch others be humiliated, you get the idea. What’s most disturbing is the film’s apparent attitude towards Jane and women. Jane is consistently referred to with all sorts of offensive labels, such as slut, whore, cunt, etc. Jane might as well have the woman from Game of Thrones walking behind her shouting, “shame, shame!” Hell, some of the characters even believe that simply because Jane is a woman, she is automatically a whore. All of this might be okay, if there wasn’t the implication that Jane actually believes that because she is a woman, she’s a slut, and is therefore being punished for it. Now, I’m not saying it’s the intention for the audience to feel that way, as the Man is there to offer a voice of reason and tell Jane it’s not true and defend her, but based on the way Doom Room plays out, it’s difficult to know what the message here actually is. Is Jane being punished simply for wanting to enjoy her sexual curiosity, or is she being punished because she thinks she’s a whore? The answer isn’t clear, but either way, it gives Doom Room a rather ugly, demeaning nature.
Despite its frenzied editing, Doom Room is also a painfully slow moving film. Like watching sap run down the side of a tree, we watch and we wait as Jane slowly unravels what is happening to her, without any major puzzle piece actually being discovered until the film’s conclusion. Until then, the 90-minute film is about 60 minutes of Jane screaming to be let out of the room, or shouting for answers, followed by more screaming, and the occasional sexual abuse. Doom Room even takes the heavily overused cliché of having someone wake up from a dream screaming, and does this over, and over, and over again with Jane. I understand what the filmmakers are going for, they want to create a dreamlike world with a fractured reality representing the crumbled pieces of Jane’s mind as she tries to put it back together again, and to their credit, they accomplish that, but it makes for a tired slog through the muddy caverns of Jane’s memories, because Doom Room rarely ever feels like it’s going anywhere. Jane is a helpless protagonist, without much of anything in her control, and just as she is forced to sit and wait for the answers to come, so are we forced to wait patiently as she figures them out.
The one saving grace in Doom Room is the cast. Even though the dialogue is repetitive and the characters aren’t allowed to grow much until the end, each and every one of the cast members does more than enough to make their characters seem more compelling than their simple sex slave status. Stanton is impressive as Jane. She is mesmerizing in her expression of fear, desire, and sadness, managing to pull the audience into her heartbreaking story, crushing us under the weight of her emotional trauma. Ball provides a kind, sympathetic voice to the madness, and Rochon is especially fierce and intimidating as the psychotic wife. She really is a treasure for horror fans. You could argue that the cast doesn’t have a whole lot to work with, but each brings their A-game and a watchability factor to Doom Room that probably wouldn’t be there if not for their hypnotic performances.
Depressing, somewhat boring, and ugly as all hell, Doom Room leaves a bad taste in your mouth that all the mint-flavored mouthwash in the world won’t cure. Watch at the risk of your own certain doom.
Doom Room is now available on VOD.
By Matt Konopka
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