It's Day 3 of Telluride Horror Show and we dove into a smorgasbord of horror films and short blocks! Today I will be tackling one of each, with a look into the feature film "The Oak Room" and the "Sinister Stories" shorts block. But be sure to check out Efrit's and Final Girl's takes on Day 3 for the full breadth of coverage!
The Oak Room
A layered tale of stacked stories over the course of several nights and at different bars build to a violent crescendo.
The thing about movies like The Oak Room is that they are highly reliant on the payoff at the end. And even more so in the particular format this film takes on of being entirely dialogue driven. If it didn't change settings with a decent amount of frequency, I would've thought it was a play adaptation. In fact, it very much behaves like one, with all of the proverbial upper cuts and jabs coming from the witty banter between bar patrons and bar tenders. You'd think you were sitting in the Sheridan Opera House in Telluride itself, but not to watch the screen.
The dialogue is relentless...literally...throughout the runtime and it does gradually fall from intriguing to exhausting with each new tale told from a new mouth. The tennis match of storytelling with each character delivering at least one of their own is nuanced with symbolism and ripe with character depth, but there is more than one occasion in which it is difficult to retain interest and in which the necessity of the story is questioned. This grows even more apparent as the film moves on, and it reaches a fever pitch in which you desperately want a definitive conclusion to it all.
Whether the payoff is worth it is in the eye of the beholder, and of course we won't discuss it in detail here...but worry not, the film has an ending...but is it one worthy of the wade through a thick and layered script? It's tough to say. The film certainly carries weight with committed performances throughout, but it's hard not to question the incessant storytelling when it becomes clear that not all of these tales are going to culminate with the same power as the main story. And let me be clear, this isn't an anthology by any means...we do get the manifestation of some of these stories on screen, but a portion of them are spoken and not seen. These are the ones that become increasingly harder to stomach when over an hour into the narrative.
The detail put into the script begs for multiple viewings, but I'm not sure if I have the patience for it. The violence of the finale is nothing terribly satisfying for the hardened horror patron, and it becomes secondary to the overwhelming desire to see how it all finally comes together. The grittiest qualifier I can give it would be psychological thriller, but a very mild one at that. It plays out more like a dark drama, which broadens its audience beyond those of the horror persuasion, but dulls the edge for those looking for something sharper.
Horror Rating System
Horror Qualifier: 6/10
Horror Quality: 3/10
Film Quality: 5/10
Sinister Stories Shorts Block Review
4x6 - A woman is haunted by a photo that mysteriously appears amidst her own collection.
This supernatural tale is best left in the dark as much as possible, but it is worth a viewing, especially on its relatively short runtime. It gives enough room to build atmosphere, but it also gets to the point of its intention in a timely manner.
Morbus - A couple drive upon an abandoned multi-car crash, and as they investigate, chaos ensues.
One of my favorites of the block, Morbus goes in a direction I did not expect. Of course, I think that unexpected direction contains some of the value of the short, so I will avoid spoiling it here. Yet, the depth of the piece, both in the relationship on screen and the plight that the relationship befalls, is powerful and effective.
The Silent Lay Steady - A family is haunted by a persistent spirit.
This dark tale plays out like a balance of mild supernatural thriller and dark drama, with an ambiance akin to The Others. It has tension, but also emotional weight, that allows it to linger after the short concludes.
The Motorist - A cult challenges a motorist who hit one of their own with his car.
This ambient, abstract tale tackles guilt, cowardice, and cult activity as a means for retribution. Much like my review of Anonymous Animals, there are some elements of this piece that require buying into the narrative, otherwise it appears disjointed and silly. It has a weirdness, as often happens with cult-based stories, that makes it a bit niche.
Who Goes There? - A family struggling with disease is offered a cure from a dark stranger.
This tale of the "olden times" dark stranger is familiar just enough to make it easy to follow the somewhat nuanced narrative on a short string, but it is also original enough to stretch the bounds of the familiarity. It's a dark tale, but one that achieves a lofty story in a short time.
Feed Your Muse - A struggling writer purchases the statue of a late author he idolized, only to find that the inspiration it provides comes at a cost.
This short along with Morbus were head-and-shoulders my favorite of the block. This one had a fantastic way of tackling the writer's block struggle while introducing a morbid and supernatural solution that poses the question...how far will we go to achieve our creative dreams? The answer given in this production is flawless from a horror perspective.
Day 3 was another great run of feature films and short blocks that tackled a wide array of entertainment. Day 4 will be fantastic as well with not only the last of the short blocks for us to look at, but also two special events in Reunion and Possessor. Can't wait!