“I was so tired of seeing the terrible portrayal of mental illness in horror films."
Writer/director Sam Wineman is one of the most positive, upbeat guys you’ll ever meet which is only slightly incongruous when you realize he may have created one of the most terrifying short films the queer community has seen in the last ten years.
The Quiet Room, which will appear at FilmOut San Diego this June, was a labor of love for Wineman as he told the San Diego Gay and Lesbian News in a recent interview.
“I wanted to be able to tell my story in a way that felt authentic,” Wineman said, laughing. “But the way that I tell an authentic story is through horror.”
“I was so tired of seeing the terrible portrayal of mental illness in horror films,” the filmmaker added. “So many times the lead who suffers from these illnesses has to kill themselves to get rid of the monster, and that dissatisfaction became the kernel for approaching The Quiet Room.”
The film, which was his grad school thesis, creates a brand new urban legend while simultaneously dealing with the difficult issue of mental illness and addresses diverse representation in genre film. It is a lot to pack into one 27 minute film, but Wineman does it with seeming ease.
The Quiet Room tells the story of Michael, played beautifully by Jamal Douglas, who finds himself in a mental hospital after attempting suicide. This is not just any hospital, however.
It seems there is a vengeful demonic spirit named Hattie who inhabits the quiet room of the hospital and preys on young, handsome men who have tried to take their own life, especially those who did not leave a suicide note behind.
It is a chilling story that called for a talented cast to handle not only the sensitive issues of depression, anxiety, and suicide but also the sheer terror and larger than life character of Hattie who embodies those very same qualities.
Luckily for Wineman, his script struck a chord with at least one genre icon and another larger-than-life performer who stepped in to help him bring his vision to life.
Lisa Wilcox, known for her portrayal of Alice in A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master and again in A Nightmare on Elm Street 5: The Dream Child, took on the role of Amy, a nurse who bonds with Michael upon his arrival at the hospital with emotional depth that is inspiring to watch.
“She’s so smart, and she gets things immediately,” Wineman raved about the actress. “She’s so easy to work with and asks all the rights questions and immediately gets into the necessary headspace.”
In fact, the writer/director said he knew he really had something special on his hands on the first day of filming when Jamal and Lisa interacted for the first time on camera calling it “magical.”
Meanwhile, “Drag Race” alum Alaska Thunderfuck stepped into the role of the demonic spirit Hattie, and it was everything Wineman could have dreamed of as he admits he wrote the role with the famous drag performer in mind.
“Alaska is so beyond talented,” he explained. “From the beginning, when I was talking to our makeup artist it was in hopes that would be able to get Alaska in there. So when she joined the project, my heart just soared. I can’t imagine anyone doing Hattie the way she does.”
Alaska is everything you could want in the role of Hattie. She is dark, menacing, and astonishingly sensual as she tempts Michael to succumb to her while cutting him off from anyone and everyone who might help him.
“Hattie operates off of the rules of depression,” the director said. “She wants to isolate our lead. She haunts him with guild-ridden visions of the past. Her goal is to completely cut him off from everyone except her and she’ll harm anyone else who attempts to get close to him.”
Working with makeup effects artist and former “Face/Off” contestant Laney Chantal, Hattie looks entirely like something that embodies those qualities as she stalks Michael through the hospital late at night.
While The Quiet Room continues to play the festival circuit, the writer/director’s love of genre films pushes him steadily forward, and he is excited that he gets to be a part of the ongoing discussion of inclusion within the genre.
“At this point in my career, I feel like I don’t have anything to lose so I get to begin all my conversations talking about queer representation in horror and the changing face of horror that includes racial diversity,” Wineman pointed out. “When I began making horror shorts, what I was doing felt really radical and I think now, it feels inevitable.”
That feeling of inevitability has been a long time coming for queer fans of genre films, and with directors like Wineman constantly working and creating, it is just possible that inevitability will become reality.
The Quiet Room will screen as part of the Best of LGBT Short-Volume 1 at FilmOut San Diego beginning at 11:00 am on Saturday, June 9, 2018, with tickets already available for purchase online.
FilmOut presents the San Diego LGBT Film Festival is on Thursday, June 7, 2018, at 7 pm to Sunday, June 10, 2018, at 7 pm at the Observatory North Park.
The Observatory North Park is located at 2891 University Ave, San Diego, 92104
Get your tickets by clicking HERE.