New this week on DVD from Cleopatra Entertainment/MVD Visual!
Directed by Rolfe Kanefsky
Written by Rolfe Kanefsky
Starring Natasha Henstridge, Lukas Hassel, Lin Shaye, Dominique Swain, Augie Duke, Caleb Scott, James Duval, Tiffany Shepis, Victoria De Mare, Elissa Dowling, Nick Principe, Rachel Riley, Catherine Annette, Jill Evyn
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Mixing comedy and horror is always dicey. Balancing between the comedic beats and the horrifying imagery is trickier than one would think. See the million and one attempts to create the lightning in a bottle that produced GHOSTBUSTERS, HOUSE, EVIL DEAD II, and other examples of doing a comedy-horror film right. Add in a succubus, which tempts people into having sex whether one would like to or not and it’s going to be pretty hard to make that a laugh a minute—especially in these quick to be offended times. But that’s just what THE BLACK ROOM tries to do.
Paul and Jennifer (Lukas Hassel and Natasha Henstridge) are a happily married couple looking forward to settling into their new home, despite the dodgy way their realtor (Tiffany Shepis) describes it to them. Seems the place is fine as long as you don’t go into the bolted room on the basement. Inside resides a succubus demon which seduces and controls people, mainly through sex. This multiple people required to fix up a home offer plenty of fodder for the demon to possess, screw, and kill.
Unfortunately, THE BLACK ROOM is kind of all over the place in terms of tone. Sometimes it wants to be a wonky comedy. Sometimes it wants to be serious horror. Sometimes it seems like they are trying to pull off poignant drama or sweet romance. The problem is that had director/writer Rolfe Kanefsky gone all in for one of these tones, it might have worked. Unfortunately, you have a demon fucking someone with a giant penis that sprouts out her mouth a la JACOB’S LADDER mixed with scenes of a possessed Paul hitting on every woman in sight and comically being overwhelmed by the amount of hot ladies at a restaurant date with Jennifer. I kind of wish the film would have gone all THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY with the material and said fuck all pretention. But it seems like this film is just too hesitant to go all in with the raunchy comedy in a consistent manner and settles for sitcom style buffoonery instead. This makes it even harder to digest when we are expected to take the threat seriously in the final reel when the shit hits the fan. It’s all just so uneven and hard to get an emotional handle on.
I will commend the film for some decent practical effects. The demon makeup is pretty great and things do get slimy and messy. The cast is fun too with Henstridge offering up the best work here. Lukas Hassel’s take on the possessed Paul is one of the reasons why this doesn’t work. He is just too over the top here to give the danger any heft. In the end, this is a weird film that made me feel rather odd the way it trivialized consent to sex. Sure it’s what I would expect from demons, but seeing it portrayed in such a whimsical way made me feel like this was a film made in a less sensitive time and not in today’s PC world. There are elements of THE ENTITY here as well as the Shatner starrer INCUBUS here (even shades of Henstridge’s own SPECIES), but those films took the horror of sexuality seriously, where this one simply makes the horror a punch line.