The three actors in Jason Stutter’s haunted house movie, “The Dead Room,” pale next to the film’s real star: the camera operator. Minimalist to a fault, this psychological horror exercise is fairly tedious, distinguished only by the moody lighting and the slow, fluid pans and dollies.
After a prologue that uses noise and shadow to suggest (not show) a hostile supernatural presence, “The Dead Room” introduces three paranormal investigators. The trio moves into a remote New Zealand farmhouse, with all their requisite Screens That Glow and Sensors That Crackle.
Grizzled, cynical Scott (Jeffrey Thomas) wants to believe in ghosts, but a lifetime of frauds has convinced him he’ll never encounter one. His assistant Liam (Jed Brophy) is a science wonk mainly interested in his advanced tech, while Holly (Laura Petersen) is a psychic, annoyed that her colleagues don’t take this haunting more seriously.
Stutter builds to a genuinely impressive sequence of spooky special effects and mayhem in the final 10 minutes. Up until that point, though, the characters mostly sit around and debate whether spirits actually exist, while being interrupted by the occasional unexplained bump or spontaneously moving piece of furniture.
Until the big finish, fright fans will have to content themselves with the lovely camera moves, along with scenes in which Holly has horrifying visions. We don’t see what Holly sees, but whatever she’s looking at sure seems scary — so she’s probably not watching “The Dead Room.”
‘The Dead Room’
Running time: 1 hour, 18 minutes
Playing: Arena Cinema, Hollywood