Katrine moves into a dormitory and finds herself an outcast from the start. Soon an evil spirit is released and starts killing people and Katrine finds herself the main suspect. She joins forces with a fellow outcast named Rolf to find a way to stop the killing.
In the Danish horror film Room 205, Katrine (Noel Ronholt) is a girl who moves into a dormitory in Copenhagen following the death of her mother. She quickly meets a number of people including quiet, nerdy Rolf (Mikkel Arendt), pretty boy Lukas (Jon Lange) and snobby bitch Sanne (Julie R. Olgaard).
Katrine is accepted into the good graces of Sanne until she hooks up with Sanne’s ex-boyfriend Lukas during a wild party. Following their rendezvous, she returns to the party to find the room empty and no one anywhere in sight. She finds herself the center of a prank where everyone pretends to be zombies and scares the shit out of her. Unfortunately for the pranksters, she locks herself in the bathroom, sees a vision of something in the mirror and breaks it, releasing an evil spirit seeking vengeance.
The movie takes its time setting up the story, allowing the characters time to breathe and develop. Instead of just jumping right into the horror and letting the killing begin, we get a dramatic story of a girl, an outcast, who finds herself somewhere she doesn’t fit in. Following the incident at the party, Katrine finds herself bullied and rejected by everyone in the dorm who maintains a follow the leader attitude. This attitude makes it easy to get behind the spirit when the killing begins. It’s the classic slasher film staple where the kids who deserve it are the ones who are killed.
Room 205 is a movie that owes a great deal to Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Both movies are about haunted houses, The Shining about a haunted hotel and Room 205 a haunted dormitory. It is not only the storyline that bears a resemblance. There is a number of camera tricks used here that harkens back to the Kubrick masterpiece including extreme long camera angles down hallways and an abundance of shots on the titular room number.
More notably, the use of bright white backlights during scenes involving ghosts is taken directly from The Shining. It is a great technique that Kubrick used and director Martin Barnewitz copies to a lesser effect. In Kubrick’s movie, he would place the lights in such a position where the apparitions would be silhouetted by lights. It created a ghostly effect where the spirits never seemed real. Barnewitz seems to know the technique, and uses it when something otherworldly is happening, but instead of using it to focus on the apparitions, he simply uses it as nothing more than homage. It is used to nice effect but without the cinematic narrative of the devise, it loses its importance to telling the story.
The movie ultimately fails through the script itself. While the direction is solid and provides a great number of scares, that is all that makes the movie a successful horror film. The script uses too may clichés and never comes across as anything original at all. It supposes that the ghost is trapped in a mirror and when you see her, she is the now tired, cliché and generic girl with long hair haunting the dormitory. I would give the film credit for ending on a melancholy downer but there is the one final jump scare that completely spoils it.
The heroes of the film are generic as well. Katrine is a girl with a troubled past, recently losing her mentally ill mother and with nightmares haunting her sleep. Her partner in attempting to stop the murderous spirit is Rolf, an outcast who seems both too nice and too nerdy. The pairing of the two is a bit contrived as she treats him like shit in one scene and then accepts him completely in the next. That is the main problem, a script that seems to follow no logic and throws clichés at the viewer instead of trying to create anything original.
The movie is carried by the solid direction of Barnewitz. Yes, he borrows heavily from The Shining, but he is a talented enough director to craft a very scary film that rises above the low level set by the script. The cover of the DVD calls this “a fast-paced supernatural teen slasher.” No offense to slasherpool.com, but that is a very bad description of this film. Barnewitz constructs a slow burn horror movie with great scares. I like my ghost stories more disturbing and less gory and, while there is some decent gore here, this one goes for more atmospheric scares and most of the time they work. It is just too bad the script couldn’t rise to the level of the competent direction.
You can watch the movie in its original Danish language with English subtitles or with an English dub. The dub is a poor one, none of the girl’s voices coming across as anything more than annoying. Of course, you shouldn’t be listening to dubbed tracks anyway, now should you?
There is a commentary track with director Martin Barnewitz and hosted by Steve Biodrowski from Cinefantastiqu. It is a nice combination as Biodrowski points out some similarities between other movies such as Shutter which shares a lot of plot similarities. The two also point out that American films tend to demand a rationale for the evil being’s actions while this movie didn’t bother with that. It is an enjoyable discussion that dissects the horror genre as they also talk about the film itself.