22 May 2011
2011, 91mins, 15
Director: Christian E. Christiansen
Writer: Sonny Mallhi
Cast includes: Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, Danneel Harris, Aly Michalka
UK Release Date: 15th April 2011
I’m not sure there’s a soul in the world who could be consistently scared by the flaccid efforts of Screen Gems’ latest thriller, "The Roommate". An extraordinarily vanilla affair, "The Roommate" takes pride in shamelessly recycling basic themes from over a half century of cinema, the result being a pot-boiler of immeasurable unoriginality. Peppered with a cast of hot television actors and helmed by a Danish director making his Hollywood debut, "The Roommate" is simply lifeless.
Sara (Minka Kelly) is a college freshman, eagerly anticipating her first year at university. Her roommate is Rebecca (Leighton Meester), a talented artist who openly admits to having endured an affluent but tumultuous upbringing. The two form a close bond, Rebecca apparently possessing an overprotective streak, jumping to Sara’s defence at even the faintest whiff of trouble. Eventually Rebecca’s intense attachment starts to grow creepy, Sara’s boyfriend Stephen (Cam Gigandet) starting to fear for his partner’s safety. When Sara begins to express an interest in moving out, Rebecca snaps, showcasing her rage in increasingly violent ways.
"The Roommate" isn’t an offensively dreadful movie, but it is tedious. Director Christian E. Christiansen has constructed a photogenic endeavour, his glossy visual aesthetic and nubile young stars at least making the film easy on the eyes. The screenplay on the other hand is severely lacking in creativity, whilst the performances and boo moments are below average. Christiansen shows little aptitude for sustaining suspense, and the project’s anaemic PG-13 sensibility disallows any proper bloodshed or titillation. In that way "The Roommate" is comparable to another Screen Gems product of not so long ago, 2008’s "Prom Night". "The Roommate" isn’t quite as ghastly overall, but both films suffer from an inherent lack of viscera, unhelpfully removing viable stakes and audience interest in one giant misjudged swipe.
Leighton Meester feels miscast as the production’s clingy antagonist; even on a superficial level the actress appears too cute to be scary. As "The Roommate" unravels Meester unapologetically ramps up the crazy, a foolish choice which renders her screeching turn during the finale almost comedic. Minka Kelly looks much too old to be a freshman (she’s 30 in reality), and delivers a flavourless leading performance. In fairness the actress genuinely gives it a wholehearted try (she never resorts to cheesy cleavage shots or faltering damsel mode), but the character just isn’t engaging, and Kelly doesn’t yet possess enough skill to convert such a weakly written figure into a well formed screen persona.
"The Roommate" attempts to provide a buffet of genre set-pieces, but none of these unfold as intended. The most egregious misstep is a bloodless shower scene, in which a boisterous party girl (Aly Michalka, "Easy A") is stalked through a dimly lit bathroom by Rebecca. Not only is the sequence derivative and tame, but it also goes out of its way to highlight the movie’s lack of credibility as a horror picture. There’s no gore evident, and more tellingly Christiansen’s camera is seemingly desperate to get a decent shot of Michalka in the nude, but due to the imposed teen friendly rating he continuously has to control himself. When you consider these factors it actually becomes a pretty amusing scene to watch, but when analysed against the director’s intentions it’s a total bust.
"The Roommate" of course concludes predictably, Christiansen closing the film with a muzzled burst of carnage, involving at least one character we barely know. I suppose 12-year old girls might be spooked on occasion by what Screen Gems is pushing here, but they’re genuinely the only demographic I can imagine this feature impressing.
"The Roommate" was decimated by critics and posted only a middling box-office return. It won’t be remembered beyond this year, so there’s no reason why you should bother checking it out.
A Review by Daniel Kelly, 2011