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Horror flick 'The Disappointments Room' plays on female hysteria cliches

Horror flick 'The Disappointments Room' plays on female hysteria cliches
Kate Beckinsale in the movie "The Disappointments Room." (Relativity Studios)

For Sale: Historic Country Estate, fixer upper but comes with all furnishings and antiques intact. Perfect for a young family looking to get away from the stresses of city life after a rough year. Notable features include waxy mustard walls, imposing spiral staircase, medieval light fixtures and a secret attic chamber for imprisoning deformed children known as a "disappointments room." Sure to drive your traumatized, grieving and mentally unstable wife mad.

"Prison Break" star-turned-screenwriter Wentworth Miller and director D.J. Caruso ("Disturbia") have penned a decidedly retro haunted house vehicle for star Kate Beckinsale in "The Disappointments Room" — down to the Stephen King-inspired font of the title sequence. Playing on the tried and true themes of motherhood and female mental illness, "The Disappointments Room" is a grief story masquerading as a ghost story.

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Seeking a respite and stability after a tragedy, brilliant but troubled architect Dana (Beckinsale) and her family relocate to the creepiest country estate on the market. Though she's instantly troubled by visions and nightmares, she is pressured into ignoring her instincts by her husband David (Mel Raido), like John Cassavetes in "Rosemary's Baby."

Is it all in her head? The film would like you to question that. The country home certainly seems haunted, with its horrific history and spectral visions of young girls in yellow dresses and stern old-timey men. But an inconsistent perspective fails to adequately argue that these are just hallucinations rather than a real haunting.

The script telegraphs things, but also often descends into incoherence. It tries to be too many things at once, and ends up being nothing. Beckinsale brings star power to a rather flimsy role, but this spooky house flick would be better off locked up in the attic and forgotten for good.

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'The Disappointments Room'

Running time: 1 hour, 30 minutes

MPAA rating: R for violent content, bloody images, some sexuality and language.

Playing: In general release

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