ROOM 441 * USA 2020 Dir: Tyler King. 84 mins
Bookended (predictably) by a ‘what you are about to see…’ style title card and anticlimactic scenes of an imperilled protagonist yelling “fuck!”, this tedious found footage chiller should be filed under “not even trying”. Impressively, it makes us immediately hate the two leads (played by multi hyphenate director Tyler King and Corey Bailey).Their amateur ghost hunting vlog is self deprecatingly nicknamed ‘Paranormal No Encounters’ because they never capture anything interesting on camera. We will soon, painfully, understand how they feel. Their latest location is Chicago’s notorious Congress Plaza Hotel, once host to Al Capone and America’s first serial killer, and currently home to a mysterious presence in Room 441 and a hilarious sounding spirit named Peg Leg Johnny. All this exposition is conveyed in a long intro via the thrilling cinematic device of…a bloke reading at length from the hotel’s web page while he and his friend make comments like “That sounded a little gay”. It’s all downhill from there. This devotes a huge amount of time to first-person explorations of the hotel, with jokey references to THE SHINING breaking up endless variations of “That’s creepy” (it isn’t) and “Did you hear that?” (if you didn’t, you’re not missing anything). While it’s entirely credible that, in this scenario, you wouldn’t be fortunate enough to capture the most alarming moments on camera, ROOM 441`’s decision to have its most dramatic scenes occur when the camera is switched off means the “horror” is mostly conveyed by the unlikeable central duo talking about what they just saw or heard. A very long Ouija board sequence pisses off the malevolent presence, but the characters continue filming despite noting that they…pissed off the malevolent presence by using the Ouija board and filming. The climax hinges on a debate about whether to checkout of the hotel. The final pay-off ranks among the lamest in the found footage cycle: you won’t be convinced by the inevitable nod to Heather in THE BLAIR WITCH PROJECT: “I’m so fucking scared” gibbers one of the protagonists. You will most likely be “so fucking bored”.
Review by Steven West