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Belittling Horror Excessively: The Disappointments Room07:54 PM -- Tue October 3, 2017

WARNING! This post contains extensive spoilers for this movie. Watch the movie before reading! Or don't. You have been warned.

The Disappointments Room (2016)
Rated R
IMDB Says:
“A mother and her young son release unimaginable horrors from the attic of their rural dream home.”
IMDB Rating: 4.0/10
Metacritic Rating: 31/100
Rotten Tomatoes: 0% critics, 17% audience
Solee: 3/5
Mikey: 2/5
We watched this on Netflix.

Mikey: Wow, my first comment on this movie is that the IMDB synopsis is way off.

Solee: Indeed. I’m not sure I’ve seen a synopsis that failed quite so hard at capturing a movie while still being factually accurate.

Mikey: Yes, there was a mother and a son in here. And like in every ghost (or demon) movie ever, the second the family moved into the house, we see the son talking to the demon/ghost! Or so it seems.

Solee: I think in this case, that’s what was happening, although we don’t find out for a while. That cat was there to protect him, just like he said it was. Brave, brave kitty.

Mikey: Interesting … so you think he was talking to a ghost (or a magic cat)?

Solee: Yes, I think the spirit of that girl was influencing the cat. She was trying to protect them the whole time.

Mikey: I had the opposite impression! This is one of those movies I tag with the “natural” tag - seemingly supernatural events could actually just be natural. Mama was just nutso. Though there is no proof either way.

Solee: That’s a totally valid perspective. It really could go either way, don’t you think? I don’t remember anything that settled it beyond a reasonable doubt.

Mikey: I think it’s left up to us, and I think we chose opposite endings! What I am left with though is to wonder what really happened to the cat, and to the poolboy/contractor. Especially him - the cat could’ve just been gotten by any old animal.

Solee: *gasp* Or Mama got it?? While in a fugue state?

Mikey: She clearly had major problems. I think the climactic moment when she bludgeons her son to death with a hammer… that was so very shocking, and I really thought it was going to be that for real.

Solee: To be fair, that’s not what happened in either scenario. Either she was bludgeoning the ghost or she was bludgeoning NEXT to her son. But, yes, I did think that her little boy was gone-zo and I was terrified to find out what she’d REALLY done to her daughter.

Mikey: Yes, she has a history of infanticide. During that whole scene I was just biting my nails, thinking “they can’t really be going there, can they?” and I’m not sure why. People getting beaten with hammers is nothing new in horror. But her own son, unintentionally (or tricked into doing it), is just so so dark.

Solee: And with such violence. It wasn’t “oops, I dropped my hammer on you”. It was hard core smashing. Blegh. I don’t even like thinking about it!

Mikey: So since we’ve already jumped to the ending, let me cover my big issue with the movie. Huge issue. I was hooked in from the beginning, all set to get exactly what I dream of: a haunted house and a slow process of revealing exactly what the ghost is and what it wants, and resolving it at the end. It took until about ⅔ of the way through before it stopped doing that and instead just becoming a blast of events happening (or not happening - very confusing), and then wrapping up with nothing really happening. I hated how it all came together, or didn’t. Did that work for you?

Solee: I didn’t hate it … but it was very anti-climactic to me. I guess, as horrible as it was, it was … I hate to say it, but too normal? Like, I’m not really all that shocked that those stuffy, high-society types from that era (early 1900s?) would keep their deformed kid in the attic and then murder her when they get tired of taking care of her. I honestly don’t like what that says about my jaded-ness at this point. And perhaps that was partly the fault of the story-telling. It was building up with all that tension and what-not and then there’s just a very flat scene where Old-timey Daddy Dearest puts a hammer through deformed daughter’s skull while her mother watches from across the room (where he threw her, to be fair). It didn’t have the emotional impact that the mother-son thing did in the next scene, that’s for sure.

Mikey: That is for sure. I just realized as you were saying that that this is (as best I recall), the exact backstory of The Ring. The girl wasn’t deformed, but they kept her in a disappointments room! It’s a great concept that really was very minimally a part of this movie. It needed to come into play somehow in the present, like her locking her son in it or something weird.

Solee: Yes! The two stories didn’t overlap enough. Sure the ghosts were there in the house and yes, the room was scary, but otherwise there was no connection. And the present day dad (who I’m going to have something to say about later) and son were totally disconnected from the haunting, which was weird.

Mikey: Well, that’s why I watched a different movie than you - they had no idea there was a haunting because it was 100% in her head! It’s weird because I’m totally convinced of that. It seems very dead-set to me from all the elements I saw!

Solee: Sure, I see that. And it made the story not work for me. I mean … they didn’t seem to care a whole lot about her or her issues either way. I guess one could argue that they’ve been dealing with it for a long time and are somewhat desensitized to it, but STILL. It’s like they just did their own thing and ignored her for huge chunks of time.

Mikey: They sure did. It was two separate worlds, like she was alone in the house (with her poolboy) and her husband was alone in a different house with his son. Very strange, but I guess you could make some argument about how that shows the disconnection she feels as part of her issues. The thing with this movie is, it was all very polished and well-crafted, but it just plain didn’t work at all.

Solee: Agreed. Can we talk about her husband for a bit? Because I did not like him AT ALL.

Mikey: I’ve heard!

Solee: He’s got a huge inferiority complex and he just waves it around, taking credit for her work, cutting her out of a conversation with the roofer (who is not a poolboy at all, btw) -

Mikey: He’s a poolboy!

Solee: - and generally treating her like she’s crazy. I mean … maybe she IS, but he doesn’t treat her like I would expect a husband to treat wife who was struggling with mental health issues.

Mikey: Yep, he seemed very awful.

Solee: What I DID like was that she was not taking that passive aggressive, mansplaining, man-baby lying down. She put him in his place every time he pulled that garbage. Of course, then they acted like she was “getting all emotional”, but I still appreciated that she did it and she did it well.

Mikey: Yeah, that’s kind of like the movie (or the writer or director) mansplaining at that point. That whole thing is another issue too big to get into that I see in all media, but in general he seemed like a “play-xbox-while-the-wife-works” kinda guy. You are lucky to have no idea what that’s like!

Solee: Well, like many of the characters in this movie, what the screenwriter wrote is a very generic, simplified, stereotypical version of a real person like that. There was a scene early on where they were talking to the lady who owned the “general store” and it was like if someone who had never left Manhattan tried to write a person who lived in the midwest entirely based on things they’d seen and read about the midwest.

Mikey: I definitely got that vibe. Rich city folk moving out to the country for fresh air is such a classic movie trope. I suspect most of the writers of such things don’t know how that actually works. And why does this podunk American town have a giant castle in it?

Solee: Because the story needed a giant castle, duh. There were a lot of big “robber baron” houses build by railroad fatcats and such, but this felt extreme even for that. I guess that’s partly because people today are less likely to be as impressed by the size of what would have been impressive in the early 1900s. It’s like accounting for inflation.

Mikey: I think you have a point! So, other than pointing out the movie’s cluelessness about the logistics of mold remediation, I have nothing more to add here. How about you?

Solee: Haha! We know about that, don’t we? *sigh* I do want to go back to the idea of the disappointments room for a second. I found that very poignant. My aunt was born with Down Syndrome around the 1950s. By then disappointments rooms had been replaced with the equally disturbing asylum. Another way for folks to hide embarrassing offspring. That was recommended for my aunt, but my grandparents refused. They raised her alongside my mother and never treated her like anything other than the daughter she was. They were pretty ahead of their time and I find it disturbing how little progress has been made in this regard in the last 70 years. It’s a lot better, but there are still way too many people who think it’s okay to treat people with disabilities differently than those without.

Mikey: Yeah… and what you just said would’ve been a much more powerful movie!

Solee: True dat. One thing I actually LOVED about the movie was that the librarian/historian was played by Marcia DeRousse, a little person actor, and it wasn’t mentioned at all. The son was a little surprised, but none of them actually mentioned it. They just went on with the discussion about the disappointments rooms. And I only just a few minutes ago realized that her character would have felt particularly strongly about the idea, being someone who would have ended up in one if she’d been born in the wrong time to the wrong family.

Mikey: That’s funny because I was going to mention Tyrion Lannister earlier, but I didn’t want to bring up the Lannisters two reviews in a row. I honestly didn’t even realize she was a little person… Thinking back I see the eyelines, and I thought she was just standing on a lower floor than them. Oops!

Solee: It wasn’t highlighted at all. The scene was about a historian imparting her wisdom. Her height wasn’t relevant. (Although if they’d written the more meaningful story we discussed earlier, she might have had some thoughts on it.)

Mikey: Yeah, I think that is good. People actually come in all sorts of different formats, we’re not all tall blond straight skinny white people with big muscles and fully functioning body parts (or “poolboys” as I like to call them). It’s nice when the normals get represented a bit.

But this brings us to the moment of official rating. Officially, you must rate this movie now.

Solee: Officially, I give this movie a … 3 out of 5. It had polish, like you said, and the acting was good. I don’t regret watching it, but I surely wouldn’t watch it again and I’m not sure I’d strongly recommend it to anyone. It was an “eh” movie, in my official opinion. How about you?

Mikey: You know, in the first 15 minutes, I might have given a 5. Then in the next 30, maybe a 4. Then a 3 for a while… and by the end I was worn down to a solid 2. Great filmmaking in service of a garbage script. Just not worth watching at all. Incidentally, did you know this movie has a LOWER score than Altar on IMDB? I wouldn’t go that far.

Solee: Well, that’s just ridiculous. You know what I want to watch next? The movie we talked about where they tackle the crappy way society treats people with disabilities and challenges us to be better, all while giving us an exciting horror story. Alas … that is not a movie that exists as far as I know.

Mikey: I’m not aware of it either (hey, the kid in Silver Bullet is in a wheelchair, though!), but I do know we are about to watch Cabin Fever. Close enough! (Note: they apparently have already remade this movie for some reason, even using the same exact script. We’ll be seeing the 2002 original).
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