Paul and Jennifer Hemdale snag a great deal on their dream home withstanding an ugly past considering the previous homeowner who disappeared without a trace and a woman ending up badly burned. Despite the stigma surrounding the house, the Hemdales vow to turn their first home into a marital love nest, but every instance in which one of them is ready to break in the new home underneath the sheets, the other falls flaccid, as if something is keeping them from making love. Beneath the first floor, in the darkest part of the basement, there lies a locked black room with ritualistic pagan writing sprawled inside every wall, floor, and ceiling surface and an demonic incubus, lying in wait for the perfect opportunity to reinstate a master plan to take over the world. When Paul becomes a host for the incubus, the body count rises when repairmen, friends, and family come calling to their home and Jennifer must discover what’s causing her husband to act like a perverted jerk before she too falls into the incubus’s malevolent grip.
“The Black Room” mixes dark demon humor with perversions in a butt-cheeky horror comedy written and directed by Rolfe Kanelsky, whose credits in “Nightmare Man” and “Emmanuelle 2000: Emmanuelle’s Intimate Encounters” have sure to have aided in the director’s seamlessness in blending an erotic tone with an aggressive horror element. Kanelsky’s cavalier approach to the 2016 film, “The Black Room,” hints at the Sam Raimi approach with the unexpected and the bizarre mischief of the demon and a violin heavy folk-artsy soundtrack style with jump scare after jump scare techniques, but without going full blown with “The Three Stooges” antics as Raimi is well-known to implement. Instead, Kanelsky’s far more subtle and isn’t afraid to be verbally pun awful, even during more positionally vulnerable scenes involving actresses. Whereas most horror films uses horror as an exploitative tool or an ultimate means to be hacked to pieces, “The Black Room” transforms nudity, and sex, into a running joke much like a Troma production would gravitate to, with “Tromeo and Juliet” being a prime example, and then punch the joke into hyper drive by either being overly gory or ridiculously impractical.
In all honesty, “The Black Room” is the second Cleopatra Entertainment title reviewed at Its Bloggin’ Evil, with the first being a clunky deal-with-the-Devil thriller entitled “Devil’s Domain” by director Jared Cohn, but Cleopatra’s latest entry into the demonic hierarchy enrolls more star power to provide legitimacy in the horror realm by casting horror hall of famed actress and “Insidious” series star Lin Shaye as the snarky previous house owner with a dwelling secret and as well as “Species” series and “Ghost of Mars” actress Natasha Henstridge as the lovely Jennifer Hemdale. Shaye’s dedication to any project, big or small, places the four-decade-careered actress as a beacon of hope for the indie project and Henstridge, still oozing that blonde bombshell of sexiness image, is the proverbial cherry on top. Shaye and Henstridge bare a heavy cast presence without having to bare much skin, but there’s a fair amount of nudity to behold from actresses Augie Duke (“The Badger Game”), Jill Evyn, Alex Rinehart, cheesy horror goddess and “Killjoy” actress Victoria De Mare, and a full frontal nude debut by Milena Gorum in her first credited film. When you’re done ogling over the female roster, a tall, baritone voiced Lukas Hassel illuminates as the sleazy parasitic host of an sex-crazed incubus, embracing every tall, dark, and handsome aficionado to dream of Paul Hemdale in a variety of gore-raunchy segments while maintaining a straight face about the filth that seeps from his character’s mouth. Rounding out this cast is a “Skarkansas Women’s Prison Massacre’s” Dominique Swain as the film’s third headliner on the Blu-ray cover and intro credits, one of my personal favorite supporting actors James Duval (“Cornered!”), Caleb Scott, Robert Donovan, and with genre favorite Tiffany Shepis.
While the story’s nuts and bolts of “The Black Room” consists of demons, possession, and world domination, lots of sex, sex talk, and sexual situations litter every scene. Yes, the demon is an incubus and by very definition of the term, a demon who makes sexual advances on women while they sleep, whole-heartedly defines the amusing premise. Maybe with Kanelsky’s background in softcore erotica, sex comes second hand and writing all the associations with the act is easier for the filmmaker who installs both main characters, Paul and Jennifer, with an insatiable sex drive from beginning to the end. Even with side characters untarnished by the incubus’s powers, such as the perverted water heater repairman, become a slave to the story’s grossly sexual tension. Now, I’m not complaining, but the continuous play on sex is odd without the slither of a moral growth. After all is said and done and the characters walk away from a deadly supernatural cluster-you-know-what, neither Paul and Jennifer progress, knowing nothing more from when they first started, and plateau to a level right from the start when first purchasing the dreadful dream home.
Cleopatra Entertainment and MVDVisual present “The Black Room” on a region free Blu-ray with 1080p on a 2.39:1 aspect ratio. Coloring is everything and the range of hues in “The Black Room” vividly crisp off the screen and the filter lighting smoothly goes unnoticed when sudden changes from natural to red flare up. For most of the 91 minute runtime, a clean image plays out a levelness throughout, but film grain presents itself in last moments of said titular room and the digital effects are gaussian soft that it’s penalizing. The English Dolby Digital 5.1 mix has a compressed audio that’s not up the spec when considering Cleopatra is a major record label. The dialogue is clean and prevalent, but sorely soft at times with ranges between ambient, soundtrack, and dialogue fluxing more on the lower volume totem poll rather than being beefy and in charge. Audio is passable, being free from damage and distortion, but a little more range would do this demon dance some justice. Bonus material includes commentary with director Rolfe Kanelsky, star Natasha Henstridge, supporting actor Augie Duke, and producer Esther Goodstein, a slew of extra and extended scenes, a severely anemic behind-the-scenes short, a brief blooper reel, slide show, storyboards, and the film’s trailer. When considering between the two demonically-charged Cleopatra Entertainment productions “Devil’s Domain” and “The Black Door,” there’s no contest as the latter is technically a much better film and a lot of fun to watch and sure to be every gore and sex-hound’s wet dream with titillating special effects, especially with an invisible entity seducing a sleeping Alex Reinhart with a major titty-twister, and a dark sense of humor of unholy pleasure.
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