[The Girl In Room 2A - (1973) - an Italian / US co-production - directed by William Rose - Widescreen presentation - 85 minutes] Also known as both 'The House of Fear' ('La Casa Della Paura' for its Italian release) and 'The Strange Behavior of Mrs. Grant' (an obvious cashing in on the far-superior 'The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh' by director Sergio Martino), this film is a bit of an anomaly for its time as well as a disjointed, disorganized Eurocult thriller that's both strangely enjoyable to its fanbase and incoherent prattle to those who aren't members of that group. BTW, the title of this review is a line of dialogue from the film...
For one, the film's writer/ producer/ director was American William Rose, known for producing / directing some "roughies" 60's sleaze cinema, all of dubious merit and quality. But that market had dried up a while ago. For this outing, he assembled a crew and partial cast in Italy, bringing a few American actors along and shooting in English to sell in both markets, which makes sound financial sense: after all, the Europeans had been engaged in this process for a decade already, and made quite a bit of cash doing so. So far, so good.
The cast consisted of known names in the Euro theater - Daniella Bianchi (Miss Italy 1966), who appeared in the Bond film 'From Russia With Love' and Mario Bava's 'Four Times That Night' in 1968 (a promiscuous, comedic version of Kurosawa's 'Roshomon') among others, Eurocult staple Rosalba Neri (whose credits are too numerous to mention, but she was nonetheless an iconic figure, mostly for her figure, though she certainly could act, gracing countless Italian, French, German and Spanish films during the 60's and 70's), Karin Schubert, another sexy staple in Eurosleaze whose flicks grew seedier until she crossed the threshold into porn for tragic reasons in later years, and Raf Vallone, well-known in Italian crime dramas during those days. An impressive roster of talent, coupled with American Brad Harris, a mainstay in the Eurospy ('Kommisar X' series) circuit in the 60's, whose career was on the wane, and a few unknown US actors to ease the marketing transition stateside. All the proper ingredients were present; now let's examine the resulting film and its flaws and merits.
Within the first 40 seconds, a woman walks down the stairs of her building and is immediately abducted by two menacing goons as soon as she hits the pavement. Next, she's in a festering pit somewhere and is stripped; hands bound and hung up, tortured and killed all while the opening credits roll. There's nothing like getting right down to business - the average viewer of these flicks loves being cold-cocked and shell-shocked without the dated concept of developing a plot or introducing characters with unnecessary dialogue, right? (Which is why I wonder no director has ever made a silent film centered on this genre, especially with the boatloads of torture/slasher/pseudo-porn that we've been subjected to over the years - it's not like the dialogue aids the film in any way, we've all heard way more women scream than we'd like, and most power tools sound similar, don't they? I wish someone would take me up on this...).
Daniela Giordano plays Margaret, a Eurobabe fresh out of a nuthouse jail, and appears emotionally frazzled. She moves into an apartment building known as Grant House on a recommendation before leaving lockup, whose landlady, Mrs. Grant (obviously), seems both nosy and strange, and her twenty-something year-old son has six kinds of wacky written all over him. After enjoying a cup of fresh-brewed drugged tea with Mama Grant, Margaret has a lie down and is later awoken when her door opens and a series of men waltz in, one in a red mask and cape, and momentarily hover over her before filing out. (For a moment, I thought I was watching a Mexican wrestling flick or outtakes of Mickey Hargitay in 'The Bloody Pit of Horror' but, thankfully, I was wrong on both counts). Was this real or a drugged dream? She later meets an American whose sister was also a tenant, and who allegedly committed suicide. After more mysterious occurrences, another tenant suicide and a trip to the son's ultracool, nightmarish workshop, they become allies in looking for the root of these uncertainties, and we all know how well that pans out, but otherwise, we'd have no flick to watch, which brings me back full circle as to why no silent film exists in this genre.
Before too much boredom sets in, there's a great scene where we're whisked to a dungeon where women are bound naked to walls and whipped worse than red-headed step-children, and these seconds are the film's highlight (and no, I'm not really a misogynist, I just play one on TV), but sadly are over far too soon. A few more scenes like this would elevate this film from a mere curiosity among fans to mandatory requirement viewing and repeated screenings. (Yeah, I'm painfully aware that we're a sick bunch, but this is an inevitable outcome when raised on raunchy reels of reprehensible recreation). Soon enough, Margaret is abducted and we come to learn that there exists a cult whose purpose is to cleanse the guilty, and by that I mean brutally execute. The ever-sexy and slightly sleazy Karin Schubert shows up just long enough to bare her breasts before getting slayed, which is unfortunate, as the flick needed a few more moments of indecency to become a decent film. A child's deductive reasoning could surmise that the Grant House provides the victims, but the ringleader is the film's true surprise (sorta). As is typical of Eurocult cinema in the 70's, the ending is hastily delivered and loose ends dangle everywhere but, again, this is not generally why we watch them.
There's more to the film than I've noted, so it's worth a gander for cult and horror aficionados, but being touted as a precursor to 'Hostel' is a bit of a stretch. Most of us are aware that, in the pantheon of 70's Eurohorror, a great percentage are lacking if not abysmal, but we fans have to see them anyway and enjoy them for what they are, not dwell on what they aren't. One must learn to appreciate the good with the bad, else there's no point in watching any type of cinema. Is this a good film? Hardly. Is it enjoyable viewing? You betcha. A newly released morsel, however trite, is always a welcomed ordeal. And Mondo Macabro deserves much praise for delivering such morsels to starving spectators that tire of being flogged with current gross-out sado-porn flicks masquerading as horror. They always deliver the goods, even when not so good, and that insures them a permanent soft spot in the hearts of cult enthusiasts everywhere. If you need to check into something new, I believe there's a vacancy in 'Room 2A'. 3 1/2 stars.