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Fantasia 2020

[Fantasia] ‘The Oak Room’ review: The craft of storytelling

A man walks into a bar, then another, and another.

A man walks into a bar, then another, and another. This is the set up to the very suspenseful film The Oak Room. Directed by Cody Calahan and written by Peter Genoway, Through tension and dialogue The Oak Room examines the power of storytelling and the cunning art of keeping an audience captive. 

Adapted from Genoway’s stage play, the story centers around Steve, played by Breaking Bad’s R.J Mitte, who has returned home to a very cold reception from Paul (played by Peter Outerbridge) a local bar owner who is a close friend of Steve’s father.  In classic gothic structure, it is a dark and stormy night when Steve walks in. He is nervous but assertive and despite Paul’s anger, Steve insists on telling him a very dark and strange story. 

While the setting is very minimalist, the directing and acting maximize the scope of Steve’s story as it extends beyond the two in an urban legend fashion. The interaction between Mitte and Outerbridge is fantastic as the storm continues to rage and their engagement with the tale becomes more consuming. Genoway’s use of time and place create the undercurrent that anything can happen at any given time. It is very atmospheric and the audience will be captivated by the dark tone and the overall suspense. What is the point of Steve’s story and who will lose or gain from it?

Haunting and engrossing, a late night visitor turns a regular night into an extraordinary experience. The Oak Room is a story about paying debts, loyalty, and human darkness.  It is playing at the Fantasia Film Festival. Will you be the next to hear the story?

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