A stylish prologue introduces us to a detached New York property owned by the elderly Margaret (Lin Shaye). She's got her sexy blonde granddaughter Chrissy (Angela Cole) staying overnight and, as she settles into her own bed, she speaks to the invisible spirits in her midst. Her tone is stern and her message is clear: stay away from Chrissy.
The spirits decide Margaret's houseguest is simply too hot to resist, and decide to seduce her in her slumber. Grabbing hold of a circular amulet as ammunition, Margaret rushes down to the basement and tries to keep the demons behind the black door down there at bay. No such luck. Margaret sacrifices herself in the hope that the spirits will leave Chrissy be, but Chrissy soon follows strange noises and makes her own way into the black room. A spooky showdown culminates in a furnace fire, a dead granddaughter and the amulet finding itself fixed to the inside of the black room's entrance - effectively trapping the evil inside the dingy little box room.
Fast-forward two years, to where writer-director Rolfe Kanefsky's film begins proper as loved-up married couple Paul (Lukas Hassel) and Jennifer (Natasha Henstridge) buy Margaret's house for a steal. Within minutes of moving in, they're alerted to strange noises coming from the basement. They write these off as problems with the furnace, which they've already been told is due to be renovated imminently.
Sure enough, Oscar (Robert Donavan) arrives a short while later to carry out said restoration work. His toiling accidentally knocks the amulet away from the black room's door, thus freeing Margaret's incubus and its horny legion.
The oblivious Paul and Jennifer are both visited by invisible lovers that night. He's in bed and believes the figure under the bed-sheets giving him oral pleasure is his wife; she's soaking in the bath with an eye-mask on, convinced that it's Paul who's giving her a good fingering.
They're joined a day or two later by Jennifer's surly Goth sister Karen (Augie Duke). Conveniently, she's studying to be a psychic and therefore has a fair knowledge of occult-related matters. She also comes brandishing charms which are said to be capable of keeping demons at bay.
In the meantime, Paul discovers the black room and quickly becomes enchanted by the amorous spirits. His subsequent trip out to a restaurant with Jennifer and Karen is fairly hilarious (intentionally?), as he's now possessed by the incubus and capable of giving passers-by orgasmic seizures at will. "It's hard to fight against what feels good" he reasons to his unsuspecting wife and sister-in-law.
As Paul's behaviour becomes more and more erratic, and the souls of the incubus's previous conquests grow increasingly desperate to seduce Jennifer and Karen into the black room's otherworld, can anyone save the day - or is sexual desire about to wipe out this movie's entire cast?
THE BLACK ROOM belies its obviously modest budget, thanks to pin-sharp photography (the RED Epic Dragon camera was used) and colourful, Argento-esque production design. A great cast also features notable appearances from the likes of Tiffany Shepis, Nick Principe, James Duval, Elissa Dowling and even Ministry mainman Al Jourgensen.
The plot and its delivery crib from an array of popular genre outlets, including ROSEMARY'S BABY, FROM BEYOND, CAFE FLESH, EVILSPEAK and THE ENTITY. Rather than coming across as a complete rip-off of other people's ideas, however, this simply carries an aura of Kanefsky having fun. His script is at-times so ridiculous, the balance of erotica and cheap horrors so amusingly theatrical, that it's difficult to conceive of how any of this could've been intended to be taken seriously. The likes of Hassel and Donavan wear knowing half-grins while delivering their silliest lines, lending the film a wholly appropriate sense of the theatrical.
The director first made his mark with 1991's entertainingly ludicrous THERE'S NOTHING OUT THERE. Since then his directorial credits include the likes of SEX FILES: ALIEN EROTICA, THE EROTIC ADVENTURES OF THE INVISIBLE MAN and JACQUELINE HYDE. So, you can see his pedigree in cheap, cheery erotica with a distinctly genre-based bent.
True to form, there's a lot of kinky stuff going on here. But with 26 years behind the camera to his credit, Kanefsky can marry his unabashed low-budget soft-core set-pieces with slick visuals, adroit editing and a feel of professionalism which lifts this well above ostensibly similar films made by, say, Shock-O-Rama Cinema.
With the feel and elan of a mid-80s horror flick (replete with some nifty practical FX work), THE BLACK ROOM - no relation either to the 30s Karloff classic or the underseen early 80s gem - moves at a fair pace and, as silly as it admittedly becomes, is never, ever dull. With flashback scenes of Satanic orgies and demon sex, along with plenty of supernatural rumpy-pumpy to report upon at regular intervals, the film serves up its naughty excesses with oodles of colourful, almost cartoonish style. Don't take it too seriously, and you should have a lot of fun with this.
THE BLACK ROOM comes to region-free US blu-ray courtesy of MVD Visual Entertainment.
Their disc presents the uncut film as an MPEG4-AVC file with full 1080p HD resolution. The 16x9 picture respects the movie's original 2.35:1 aspect ratio. As you can imagine, images are sharp, clean and vibrant throughout. The warm colour hues are well-rendered, while depth is true and blacks remain deep for the duration of playback.
An English 5.1 surround audio mix offers a bombastic experience, finding an even balance between clean dialogue, jolting music and impressive sound design.
An animated main menu page opens up affairs. From there, a scene selection option allows access to the film via 15 chapters.
Bonus material commences with a jolly audio commentary track from Kanefsky, Henstridge, Duke and producer Esther Goodstein. A good time was clearly had by all. There's not a great deal of technical detail on offer here, with the group sometimes merely describing what's happening on screen, but the tone is light enough to make this an engaging watch/listen regardless.
We also get sixteen deleted/extended scenes which run for a total of 31 minutes. These can be viewed either individually or in a single run via a "Play All" option, and are presented in chronological order.
A 78-second Behind the Scenes featurette is disappointingly brief, but does gives a little more female nudity and some insight into Kanefsky's affable directorial style. This is essentially fly-on-the-wall footage of one of the film's later scenes being shot.
72 seconds of bloopers are pretty funny, with Henstridge and Duke being the main offenders when it comes to getting the giggles mid-take.
Two trailers do a fine job between them of translating the film's entertainingly fruity approach to its stylish, kinky horrors. These both run for 2 minutes and 5 seconds but are definitely (though not significantly) different.
Finally we get a gallery of original storyboards and a selection of erotic colour stills from the film's shoot.
THE BLACK ROOM is an interesting, handsome and quite barmy indie flick with a great cast. I enjoyed the way it grew madder and madder. It's served extremely well on MVD Visual's excellent blu-ray disc.
Review by Stuart Willis
|Released by MVD Visual Entertainment|