After the traumatic death of their baby daughter, Dana (Kate Beckinsale) and David (Mel Raido) decide to move to the country for a while, taking their son (Duncan Joiner) with them to recuperate and get away from the bad vibes. Of course, as anyone who’s ever seen a horror movie could tell them, this is a horrible idea.
Shortly after moving into an abandoned country manor, Dana becomes enthralled by a mysterious locked room that isn’t listed on any floor plan. A local historian (Marcia DeRousse) helpfully explains that this is a “Disappointments Room,” a secret chamber where wealthy families used to hide their disabled children away from the world. When Dana finally finds her way in, she’s plagued by visions of the house’s imperious former owner (Gerald McRaney) and his demonic black dog. The room has a weird effect on time too: Dana gets trapped in the room for what feels like hours, even though only a few minutes pass outside. She’s unable to explain this to her family, however; they just think it’s all residual post-traumatic fallout from their daughter’s untimely death.
Like other recent horror films (The Babadook, Lights Out) The Disappointments Room tries to blend supernatural horror with mental illness, but this iteration isn’t very effective. It does get difficult to tell what’s really happening and what’s just in Dana’s head as the movie progresses, but instead of being as thought-provoking as, say, a Philip K. Dick novel, the effect is just confusing.
D.J. Caruso’s film throws out a lot of different threads—there’s the possibly haunted room, the definitely real emotional trauma, plus a whole thing with a local handyman (Lucas Till) who tries to flirt with Dana while fixing the manor’s leaky roof—but unfortunately they never quite connect. For example, an emotional dinner scene towards the end featuring Dana, David, and some previously-unmentioned friends is clearly supposed to be climactic, but seems to come out of nowhere.
Also, there simply aren’t enough scares to build tension throughout. Most of the film is just Beckinsale walking around looking worried. Occasionally, she’ll glimpse some ghostly little girl. Sometimes a door slams behind her. Almost never will you be scared. C+