An Incubus Waits In Natasha Henstridge’s Basement
Cross the raw energy of the Evil Dead flicks with the bold horror stylings of The Entity and you probably get something similar to The Black Room. Starring Natasha Henstridge (Species) in a return to her horror roots, The Black Room is ridiculous – ridiculous fun in a trashy horror sense. A happy, horny couple move into their new dream home. What they don’t know is that a dangerous incubus, a demon that feeds off human lust, lives in their basement. Scary, campy, sexy and occasionally disturbing, The Black Room has all the makings of a cult classic.
Writer and director Rolfe Kanefsky pays homage to a wide array of horror tropes and swipes scenes from classic films such as A Nightmare on Elm Street. Starting with a wildly zany cold opening that sees a woman groped by an invisible demonic presence, the movie hums with an undeniable energy helped out by a number of familiar faces to experienced movie watchers. Tiffany Shepis, Lin Shaye (Insidious, Ouija) and Dominique Swain (Lolita) all have roles in the supporting cast. Horror fans may not recognize Lin Shaye’s name at first but they will surely know her face from her other horror movie roles.
Paul (Lukas Hassel) and Jennifer (Natasha Henstridge) are a happily married couple moving into a new home and that happiness is about to get shattered. The previous owner literally disappeared into the mysterious black room in the basement. An incubus dwells there, waiting for more humans to sexually prey on and add to its growing collection of victims.
Augie Duke plays Karen, Jennifer’s sister. A stereotypical goth girl, Karen visits the home right as the demonic incubus is making its sadistic presence felt around the house. No one is safe in the house from its depraved attentions. Both Paul and Jennifer experience lust-fueled seductions, including a charged scene when the incubus impersonates Jennifer under the sheets. The Black Room is not above hokey nods to T & A when necessary. One scene has a female victim getting groped by a wall of arms in thrall to the horny demon.
The Black Room has a loose, freewheeling sensibility that works for the demonic thriller. It even has some humor sprinkled throughout as the incubus slowly reveals itself more and more to the family. The practical effects and make-up are effective, if occasionally unpolished. There are some gory scenes that become bloodbaths. They might actually be a little over the top for this kind of horror production but that fits the film’s trashy sensibility better.
Natasha Henstridge is a real trooper in The Black Room. Having risen to fame in the dark sci-fi thriller Species, it was great seeing her in a sexy thriller again after all these years. She fully embraces her role of Jennifer, ending up as the main protagonist squaring off with the incubus as she tries to stop its violent reign of lust and terror. She is a perfect fit for the character that adds needed credibility to the movie, which could have easily been just another very disposable indie horror flick without her starring presence.
Anyone that enjoys Sam Raimi’s early horror films should like The Black Room. It’s a straight horror movie with an enjoyable cast having fun in their roles. Toying with the incubus concept gives it a raw burst of campy energy. It’s a fun, trashy flick for horror hounds that should find an appreciative audience with Natasha Henstridge’s fans.
The Black Room was shot with the RED Epic Dragon camera which usually produces good results on Blu-ray. The actual video quality is fairly average for a new HD production with better than normal detail but flat definition. The somewhat tight scope cinematography feels cramped in certain scenes. MVDvisual happens to distribute The Black Room for Cleopatra Films on home video. The 94-minute main feature is encoded in AVC on a BD-25. Some darker gradients show noise and very mild banding.
Like many independent productions, The Black Room’s clarity and overall sharpness decline in darkened interiors. Black levels aren’t poor but shadow delineation gets mildly clipped in several scenes. Close-ups have nice detail, exhibiting excellent texture and high-frequency content. The contrast is largely consistent. There isn’t a lot of exotic color grading outside of a few specific scenes, such as when a flashback reveals the incubus first getting summoned.
Most viewers shouldn’t have much of a problem with The Black Room’s 2.40:1 presentation at 1080P resolution. It’s not the crispest HD video seen on Blu-ray but offers steady picture quality with decent clarity, including its crucial F/X shots.
Cleopatra Films needs to learn what lossless audio means on Blu-ray. The Black Room’s soundtrack is heard in fine but lossy 5.1 Dolby Digital audio at 448 kbps.
The mix employs an active sound design with decent separation. Much of it is confined to the front soundstage with modest surround support. Dialogue is crisp and intelligible. This mix could have used a bit more impact in the LFE channel.
No subtitles are included.
I have no idea how Cleopatra Films did it but they got Natasha Henstridge to participate in an entertaining group commentary. The casual discussion is loose and definitely worth a listen.
Deleted and Extended Scenes (30:48 in HD) – Sixteen scenes in all are included in this compilation of deleted and extended material. I actually prefer the alternate opening scene’s cut to what made it in the film. Most deleted scenes aren’t usually worth it but The Black Room is an exception.
Behind the Scenes (01:18 in HD) – Brief footage of scenes as they are actually getting filmed, including the final confrontation with the incubus.
Blooper Reel (01:12 in HD) – Funny outtakes.
Trailer 1 (02:05 in HD)
Trailer 2 (02:05 in HD)
Storyboards – The storyboards from key sequences are shown in this captivating slide show. I wish more control was given for the user to scroll through the panels at one’s leisure.
Slide Show – A series of images from behind the scenes and promotional material.
Audio Commentary with Natasha Henstridge, actress Augie Duke, producer Esther Goodstein and director Rolfe Kanefsky – A rollicking group commentary that doesn’t take itself too seriously. Everyone sounds like they are having a good time and include anecdotes from production.
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