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‘Room 203’ review: Adaptation of J-Horror novel brings tension & scares

No ordinary glory hole.

Room 203 reminds audiences just how much college students will accept when it comes to affordable housing. Kim (Francesca Xuereb) and Izzy (Victoria Vinyarska) are lifelong friends that are heading into adulthood. They have recently moved into an apartment with a dark history. Kim soon learns the tortured past of their new home may lead to death. 

These types of stories usually thrive on atmosphere and mood and Room 203 is no different. It has the expected tropes (loud banging, nightmarish visions, and creepy birds), but there is never an overreliance on them. Much of it comes off as more of a mystery than a horror. This tonal decision makes things more interesting than similar movies. 

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That being said, there are some obvious pacing issues. The same decision to step away from the horror aspects also has a tendency to interrupt the flow. Some scenes become more of a character study and drift away from the ambiance Room 203 is trying to create. The final act also feels rushed. Room 203 moves away from the methodical pacing used early on and begin to depend on jump scares. It is not a case of overuse; they are essentially the only source of terror. This is disappointing considering how much time was spent building to the finale. 

Helping matters are the strong characters. As Kim and Izzy develop over the course of Room 203, it is easy to become invested in the characters as they deal with a variety of issues. The most prevalent theme is one of friendship. Their bond is constantly tested and part of the appeal is seeing how they react. There is a genuineness not often seen in haunted house movies.

In the end, Room 203 accomplishes exactly what it needs to. It provides scares and familiarity, but deviates from the formula just enough to keep anyone from becoming bored. The acting carries the film and the shaky third act does not take away from the enjoyment.

Room 203 will play in select theaters in New York City, Chicago, Ft. Worth, and Dallas and comes to VOD April 15


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