ROOM 203 movie poster |©2022 Vertical Entertainment

ROOM 203 movie poster |©2022 Vertical Entertainment

Rating: Not Rated
Stars: Francesca Xuereb, Viktoria Vinyarska, Eric Wiegand, Scott Gremillion, Rick LaCour
Writers: John Poliquin and Nick Richey & Ben Jagger, based on the novel by Nanami Kamon
Director: Ben Jagger
Distributor: Vertical Entertainment
Release Date: April 15, 2022 (theatrical and VOD)

ROOM 203 is an American movie adaptation of Nanami Kamon’s horror novel about a sinister apartment. Without reading the book, it’s impossible to know how the script by John Poliquin and Nick Richey & director Ben Jagger serves the source material.

The best things about the film, in any case, are not any mythological surprises, but rather the excellent lead performances by Francesca Xuereb and Viktoria Vinyarska as lifelong best friends and new roommates.

Xuereb plays Kim, who has just enrolled in college to study journalism. She moves in with Izzy (Vinyarska), an aspiring actress with a drug problem. Izzy has been in a tailspin since her mother died. After at first bowing to her parents’ distrust of Izzy, Kim rebels and takes an apartment with her pal.

Apartment 203, called “Room 203” by everyone (even though that seems like honoring the book’s title at the expense of how Americans talk about rental units), is a spacious two-bedroom on the mostly empty upper story of a residential apartment building. (Why a unit on the tenth floor or higher is numbered “203” is also not discussed.) Creepy landlord Ronan (Scott Gremillion) is Kim and Izzy’s only neighbor on the floor.

The place boasts great views, plus an astonishing stained-glass window that depicts acts of ferocious violence. For some reason, the rent is surprisingly reasonable. There’s also a small hole in the wall that absolutely refuses to be caulked or even covered over. When Izzy reaches into it, she finds a lovely antique pendant necklace, which she promptly wears.

There’s actually a great line of dialogue about this later on in ROOM 203, which demonstrates that the filmmakers have snap and wit. They also hit strong, persuasive notes when it comes to the intense friendships between young women, and the ways in which they instinctively feel responsible for one another.

Xuereb has warmth and sincerity, and Vinyarska navigates Izzy’s various moods with skill. Gremillion has an effective flat affect as Ronan, and Eric Wiegand is likable as Kim’s refreshingly sensible potential boyfriend.

Where ROOM 203 goes off-track is in its horror beats. The intriguing stained-glass window and the hole in the wall don’t deliver as much as they promise. Much is made at the start of Kim’s alienation from her parents, but this winds up not having impact on the narrative.

When exposition comes, it’s in a large third-act clump. Moreover, it will sound generally familiar to genre fans. There’s no need to reinvent the wheel here, but a few novel flourishes would not have gone amiss.

ROOM 203 has some powerful images, a few great lines, and two leads worth watching. All of this compensates for a certain deficit of originality.

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