I really enjoy sampling the horror cinema wares of different regions and countries. More often than not, they are better than the same old paint-by-numbers films coming out of Hollywood; more than that, though, foreign horror films almost always put me in an environment I'm not fully familiar with and inject a creative element into the whole experience that branches down dark corridors I've yet to traverse. Kollegiet (Room 205) marks my first foray into Danish horror, and I must say I'm not quite sure how to approach this particular film. I want to criticize and praise it at the same time. Part of me says it wasn't all that impressive of a film, but another part of me has to acknowledge the fact that it definitely managed to get under my skin before all was said and done.
Room 205 isn't going to grab you by the lapels and shake you. In fact, it's difficult to really get into the story or characters early on. The fact that the whole atmosphere is dark, dreary, and rainy all of the time doesn't help, but the real burden the film has to overcome is the fact that it develops very slowly over the course of the first half hour. It's even difficult to get much of a read on the main character, Katrine (Neel Rønholt), who initially comes across as a shy and unassuming young lady just entering university; there's an air of mystery about her, however, as we see some definite conflict between her and her father and soon learn that her mother killed herself some time earlier. Her new dorm mates are rather standoffish, especially Sanne (Julie Ølgaard), and we know they basically ran the last dorm mate out of the house; you're either in or out, and Rolf (Mikkel Arendt) was out. Katrine soon hears the story of a ghost in room 205, supposedly that of a young woman who died there twenty years earlier. Surprisingly enough, it is not Katrine but Sanne who actually lives in room 205 - but that doesn't mean Katrine has nothing to worry about, especially after an indiscretion and betrayal lands her on the outs just like Rolf.
I've seen some viewers compare this movie to The Ring (Widescreen)
, but I don't see any connection whatsoever between the two films. Room 205 is in no way a Danish version of The Ring. I do agree with those who say this film was not scary, but I do have to say that I came to find it deliciously unsettling. That probably has more to do with the directing and cinematography than the actual story, though. Mirrors play a significant role in this film, and director Martin Barnewitz makes great use of them to produce several eerie and oddly captivating visual shots. Unfortunately, the English dubbing of the film leaves much to be desired (having watched the film online - legally, I might add - I did not have the option of foregoing the dubbing in favor of the much more desirable subtitles).
Some people just aren't going to like this film, but I hope those who see it resist whatever temptation they feel to give up on it early on. When matters eventually start to hit the fan (or mirror, in this case), Room 205 is quite capable of pulling off some effective horror-laden moments. The deaths, while not overly gory, are nevertheless presented quite effectively, and there's a strong psychological aspect to the whole story. You have to connect with Katrine to get the full effect, but I think most viewers will do just that. Personally, I found Neel Rønholt to be a most enchanting young actress - and not just because she bears a definite resemblance to both Erin Brown (formerly Misty Mundae) and someone I know. She's exquisite, and I daresay her smile could launch a thousand ships. She's definitely earned a spot on my personal watch list of actresses. I'm also going to keep an eye out for other Danish horror movies; it's far from perfect, but Room 205 gives me the distinct impression that good things are happening in Danish cinema.