A mentally ill patient at a rehab facility is haunted by a demon in Sam Wineman’s highly anticipated queer horror short “The Quiet Room.”
The film stars Jamal Douglas, Kit Williamson, Barkley Harper with drag superstar Alaska Thunderfuck as a jealous spirit who preys on patients suffering from mental distress.
In the film, we find Michael (Douglas) who is riddled with guilt which leads him to make a selfish decision. That choice gets him checked into a mental health facility to recuperate and reflect. The hospital has a sketchy program which doesn’t include group therapy so the handful of patients must rely on journal therapy and interpersonal skills to get by. But their ward is also haunted by an invisible presence, something Michael senses early on.
Nicknamed “Hattie” (Thunderfuck), the entity is a vengeful spirit that attaches to its victims disposing of those who get in its way while leaving clues which incriminate her original target. This is probably to drive them mad therefore extending their stay at the hospital. It’s incorporeal cross-dimensional dysfunction at its finest.
You’re given very little to make a short film the least of which is money and unless you are a cinematic genius, it will inevitably come across looking cheap. Fortunately, Sam Wineman is smart enough and capable enough to engage his audience in intelligent filmmaking which includes a fine polish that looks and feels beyond its means.
His vision and inspirational thoughts not only create a rather unnerving film, but one that also happens to carry with it an existential message of underlying hope.
The question Wineman is probably trying to answer is whether or not humans would make the same decisions if they were forced to do them, rather than using their flawed free will.
We all know the answer: nobody likes to be told what to do, therefore they become fanatics of their own internal discourse, nourishing every self-inflicted hurtful thought. Hattie is happy to indulge her hosts in the latter.
Hattie is the worst kind of evil. Imagine if your inner voice wasn’t your own but an insidious beast, holding you hostage and setting you up to fail because it’s as lonely and confused as you are.
Alaska Thunderfuck, in her horror movie debut, is mesmerizing. She embodies Hattie not only to a terrifying degree, but gives the ghost an empathetic quality. A skilled performer, she is able to vent feeling through her eyes beneath the layers of ghoulish sopping makeup. It doesn’t feel like a Drag Race maxi challenge, it’s an honest-to-goodness scary, cautionary ghost story.
To appropriate a song by Queen: Thunderfuck is frightening, very very frightening me.
Her target Michael, played by the handsome Jamal Douglas, doesn’t have much of a speaking part so his facial expressions and reactions effectively elicit the pain and fear of being in crisis. The ensemble players carry the story along, most notable are Kit Williamson and Lisa Wilcox.
Profoundly disturbing with an homage to some great American and Asian horror movies, “The Quiet Room” is a gut-punch of epiphany which may have a gay storyline but can speak volumes to anyone going through depression.
There is genius at work in its 26-minute runtime, “The Quiet Room” will stick with you long after the screen goes dark, the credits roll and you search IMDb for what director Sam Wineman is working on next; let’s hope it’s a full-length feature.