Movie Review: Check the fine print on the lease for “Room 203”

“Room 203” is not the first “haunted room” thriller.

This Japanese game company-produced adaptation of a Nanami Kamon novel isn’t set in a hotel as in “Room 237” in “The Shining,” or “1408” in the adaptation of a Stephen King story that starred John Cusack. In North America, we refer to rooms in apartment buildings as “Apartment 203,” but no matter.

A couple of college-age friends move into this historic mid-rise with one particular room that has a bloody history to it. Not that coed journalism student Kimmy (Francesca Xuereb) or the “bad influence” (her annoyed parents’ words) aspiring actress and big-time partier Izzy (Viktoria Vinkyarska) are told that.

No, the creepy landlord Ronan (Scott Gremillion) leaves that out. As we’ve already seen blood spilled from the never-mendable gaping hole in the wall in the film’s opening, that seems like a deal breaker.

New tenants move in, try to hang a picture, the hole reopens and the most curious reach in to see what’s inside. The fools! Horror follows.

There’s this strange necklace tucked into the wall and a haunting music box in the “pre war” furnished apartment. Once those totems are out in the open, weird things start to happen — nightmares, noises, and in Izzy’s case, a bar pick-up who dies and disappears while she’s sleeping a buzz off.

Being a journalist-to-be, Izzy is encouraged by a classmate (Eric Weigand) to “dig” and “investigate” the building and room 203 in it. But we’ve already seen the hole, the oddly-menacing stained-glass window, and met the landlord and heard “the basement is OFF limits to the residents.” Something bad happened here, something fated to be repeated over and over again until…rezoning?

Director Ben Jagger (“Corbin Nash”) starts this story off slowly and never really picks things up. The plot isn’t particularly original, inviting or logical. The threats are lethal to those in the roomies’ orbit, but let’s keep the two repeatedly-threatened cute coeds — OK, one isn’t enrolled — alive for the third act.

The “investigation” points straight to a crime and some supernatural mumbo jumbo of the J-horror variety.

The acting isn’t bad, but the characters are “types” and the dramatic/traumatic back story is as generic as everything else here.

There are thrillers that build toward a climax and thrillers that blow the ending after succeeding in creating suspense. “Room 203” never really gets up a head of steam and just sort of peters out in a predictable, anti-climactic finale.

If you don’t check in you won’t have to check out of “Room 203.”

Rating: unrated, bloody violence, sexual situations, alcohol abuse

Cast: Francesca Xuereb, Viktoria Vinyarska, Eric Wiegand and Scott Gremillion

Credits: Directed by Ben Jagger, scripted by Ben Jagger, Nick Richey and John Poliquin, based on a novel by Nanami Kamon. A Vertical release.

Running time: 1:44

About Roger Moore

Movie Critic, formerly with McClatchy-Tribune News Service, Orlando Sentinel, published in Spin Magazine, The World and now published here, Orlando Magazine, Autoweek Magazine
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