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Ben Nagy reviews ‘Doom Room’: Don’t let the rhyming title fool you, this is serious stuff

Doom Room, despite the rhyming title and the appearance of being a Saw or Hostel-type torture fest, has higher things in mind and an existential mystery at its core. Plus the three B's.

A trapped woman tries to figure out who she is and what’s going on before it’s too late

Never judge a disc by its cover.

We can trim that down to a valuable life lesson for all occasions by just saying “never judge,” but this is a movie review column and so I’ll limit the philosophizing to that which is flick-related.

I picked up this week’s movie, Doom Room, expecting something akin to Saw or Hostel. We’d have a woman stuck in a torture chamber with unspeakable and nasty things happening to her and to whoever else is stuck in the room with her – and the responsible party will probably be some psycho in a hood or a mask with lots of sharp instruments that we’ve seen used on various occasions to detach parts from bodies that aren’t easily detachable, because, well, that’s what it looked like it’d be from the cover.

El wrong-o.

Doom Room (by the way, the rhyming title is the second one for this movie – the first title was Nightmare Box) is more mystery than massacre, more ingenious than imbrued and more existential than ensanguined. (A rhyme deserves a touch of alliteration, no?) And unfortunately, the rhyming title and the opening montage (edited with the whole quick-cut music video montage with industro-metal undertones) had me expecting the lowest common denominator.

But that’s the whole thing about judging. I was expecting something way less with just the cover and the first few minutes going by, but instead I got something more.

Ben Nagy reviews 'Doom Room': Don't let the rhyming title fool you, this is serious stuff 13
Johanna Stanton (center) is menaced by the husband-and-wife duo of Matthew Tompkins and close, personal friend of Joe Bob, Debbie Rochon, in this scene from Doom Room. (Screen capture by reviewer Ben Nagy).

The setup is simple. A woman in a little black dress (Johanna Stanton) finds herself imprisoned in a crappy room decorated in late-20thcentury psychopath. You got your kitschy carousel trinket, a messed-up clock, a Christmas tree, your filthy mattress with chains on it, some dolls in some S&M positions, the usual. She has no idea where she is or who she is. She fades in and out of consciousness a lot. She gets fed by her captors but only to coerce her into sex. In between her spells of unconsciousness, she receives visits from a younger girl (Hayden Tweedie), a man in glasses who stars out being nonverbal (Nicholas Ball) and is menaced by an antagonistic Goth-looking husband and wife with some kinky and demanding tendencies.

Will she be able to free herself, put the pieces of her life together and help her visitors survive and ultimately escape the room before having endless indignities forced upon her, like oatmeal for sex?

Stanton puts this movie on her shoulders – she’s in every scene and has unpleasant stuff happen to her throughout. Call it Sartre meets Saw or maybe Hegel meets Hostel, but Sartre wins here. There’s a lot more behind this one than a tableau of degradation or blood ‘n’ guts (though there’s some of that). Speaking of which …

Ben Nagy reviews 'Doom Room': Don't let the rhyming title fool you, this is serious stuff 14

Please note: There’s not a ton of gore in this one, but all three B’s are satisfied.

  • There’s a throat-cutting that nearly decapitates someone.
  • Close personal friend of Joe Bob Debbie Rochon plays the best Goth prom queen since Darcy dressed up like Mary Lou in the first season finale of The Last Drive-In (yes, I know this flick was shot in 2013, but I saw Darcy first). In a bravura performance reminiscent of the great Mathilda May in Lifeforce, Debbie is undeterred by the fact that her costume appears to keep her nipples exposed the whole time.
  • Two people get shot in their gazebos and groceries, respectively, and then in their foreheads.
Ben Nagy reviews 'Doom Room': Don't let the rhyming title fool you, this is serious stuff 15
Nicholas Ball, left, and James Simmons try to figure out just what the hell is going on during a conference in the Doom Room. (Screen capture from DVD by reviewer Ben Nagy)
  • We’ve got a guy dressed up like a pilgrim quoting Bible verses (James Simmons) whose character consists of him running down the trapped woman for her life choices with gems such as  “You are the altar of evil for which men spill their seed,” and “You’re practically slipping in a putrid pile of love juice, you dirty whore,” and that’s when he’s being nice.
  • We have a guy walking around with his mouth sewn shut handing out firearms and showing up in an Eyes Wide Shut mask with an enormous wangdoodle for a nose during a conference at a table when all the visitors sit down in the room to figure stuff out.
  • We got a woman with no eyes clawing them open so she can see.
  • We have an ending that wraps it all up in a flick that has a basis in both reality and some really debauched fantasy.

Four stars – other Internet reviews and ratings on flick websites be damned (I’m looking at you, Internet Movie Database). Ignore the rhyming title and the preconceptions laid forth by Saw and the like.

This sucker deserves to be seen for the multi-layered nightmare that it is. Co-writers Jon Keeyes and Carl Kirshner made a good one. Keeyes also directed. If you stick it through to the end, it’ll all make sense.

Doom Room, aka The Nightmare Box, is available on TubiTV, on Amazon Prime and on DVD.

Check it out.

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