The Black Room (2016) – By Philip Smolen


Blissfully happy couple Jennifer and Paul (Natasha Henstridge and Lukas Hassel) have just made one of their dreams come true: they’ve bought a beautiful house in a lovely suburb at a really great price. They did this even though they knew that the granddaughter of the previous owner (Alex Rinehart) was horribly burned in a freak furnace accident several years ago. Jennifer and Paul decide that they are going to christen their home by making love in every room. But before they can consummate their pledge, strange events begin to overshadow them. A vengeful demon that has been trapped in their basement for several decades is accidentally set free by the couple’s electrician. The demon takes over Paul’s body and proceeds to plot his entrance into the physical human world. Both Jennifer and her sister Karen (Augie Duke) notice the changes to Paul’s emotional make-up, but they’re not sure exactly how they can help. It’s only when Jennifer begins to research her house and the occult that she finally begins to understand the horror that she is up against.

“The Black Room” is a new horror film from veteran writer/director Rolfe Kanefsky (“There’s Nothing Out There” [1991]). Just like many of his films, “The Black Room” is filled with sex and violence which Kanefsky uses to add some gusto to the film’s proceedings. Here, Jennifer and Paul are blissfully unaware of the horror that awaits them and only realize their situation when it’s too late. They are both sexually frustrated and Kanefsky uses this plot point to make it easier for the demon to control the couple.

The film doesn’t break any new ground in horror – and that’s OK. Kanefsky uses very familiar horror tactics to build up suspense, and despite the familiarity of these techniques, they work. The film starts out quietly and slowly builds up with Jennifer and Paul hearing strange noises, which is then followed by Paul’s possession and horrible deaths by secondary characters. Then after all this, the main horror is unleashed. Kanefsky also borrows elements from other classic horror films such as “The Haunting” (1963), “The Entity” (1982) and “Cellar Dweller” (1988). He knows what works and these cribs are very successful here.

What really helps Kanefsky sell the horror is the quality of his lead performers. Scrumptious Natasha Henstridge is a consummate professional and she brings just the right level of innocence, awareness and sexuality to the role of Jennifer. Lukas Hassel is equally compelling as Paul and his fantastic physical presence reminds me of a young Christopher Lee. Augie Duke is also wonderful as Jennifer’s sister Karen. She’s sour and tartness next to Jennifer’s overall sweetness and this successfully adds to the film’s tension.

“The Black Room” doesn’t open any new doors in the horror film world and that’s a good thing. Writer/director Kanefsky knows his material well and more importantly knows what his audience wants. “The Black Room” is like a favorite pair of blue jeans. It’s comfortable and fits great in all the right places.

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