I recently revisited this overlooked little film – it’s not an “undiscovered gem” but it’s also pretty good and deserves a larger audience. Totally out of synch with the big-budget, slick, Hollywood-friendly horror of the 80’s (so current nostalgists need not apply), THE BLACK ROOM (1982) is more similar in tone and budget to an indie obscurity of the time.
Larry (Jimmy Stathis, VULTURES) rents “The Black Room,” in the fabulous Hollywood Hills, as a pied-à-terre for extramarital assignations. The room is located in the home of strange, decadent, worldly siblings Jason (Stephen Knight, NECROMANCY) and Bridget (Cassandra Gava, THE AMITYVILLE CURSE) and Larry’s wife, Robin (Clara Perryman), thinks his stories of the room and what he does there are sexual fantasies, but they are not. As Jason & Bridget are secretly taking photos of the visitors through two-way mirrors, and while Bridget seduces Larry, some of the free-spirited girls he picks up are disappearing afterwards. And then there’s Jason mysterious blood disease, which is reportedly getting worse…
“…the initial creeps come from clinical, laboratory bloodletting…”
There are bits of the dry (no pun intended) Australian film THIRST (1979) and David Cronenbergs’ earlier, colder films resonating through THE BLACK ROOM, where the initial creeps come from clinical, laboratory bloodletting, and one could read the movie as an early 80’s, reactionary, pre-AIDS critique of the free-love 70s, deliberately resonating on older tropes (watch out for wealthy decadents, ala 1971’s DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS, which BLACK ROOM would make an interesting contrast with). But while the upended family order (including the annoying kid) may be restored in the end, the film is noteworthy to me for the intense coda moment, where the (until this point) slick and prosaic presentation is suddenly overridden by an intense and unexpected image of resurrection that implies something far older and less clinical.
THE BLACK ROOM is a neat little film, unjustly overlooked, and it has that low-budget, indie film, “shot in the real world” feel that I really appreciate, especially now in our current world of slick, soulless “product.” As stated, there’s something both realistic and oddly fable-like in its narrative, the combination of sex and death creating a real frisson. It may not blow your socks off, and fails to feature (outside of that brief coda previous mentioned) an eye-catching or noteworthy set-piece to make its name, but it is still worth seeking out.