Title: The Roommate
Directed By: Christian E. Christiansen
Starring: Minka Kelly, Leighton Meester, Cam Gigandet, Alyson Michalka, Danneel Harris, Billy Zane
There’s a reason we get a new nonsensical slasher movie every month or two – they’re fun. At this point, it’s no surprise that the industry has dumbed down the subgenre to the point that it fits a specific formula that generally works both in terms of box office numbers and general appeal. It may be a C+ film, but at least it’s fun to watch. All you’ve got to do to get the audience to bypass the illogicalities and technical faults is make an engaging and suspensful film. Clearly Christian E. Christiansen didn’t do his research.
Sara (Minka Kelly) arrives on campus for her very first day of her freshman year of college to an empty dorm room. While waiting for her roommate to arrive, she opts to head to a frat party with some new friends. After a rowdy night of drinking, dancing and canoodling with a frat boy drummer, Stephen (Cam Gigandet), she gets home and barely notices the other bed is occupied. But what’s one less night with Rebecca (Leighton Meester) in her life? The moment Sara wakes up the next day, Rebecca is in full BFF mode.
Things seem rather normal at first. No, maybe Rebecca doesn’t like to party as much as Sara’s other pal, Tracy (Alyson Michalka), but she’s still eager to just be a good friend. However, as the relationship progresses, Rebecca takes the task of getting on Sara’s good side a bit too far, overstepping her boundaries in just about every area of Sara’s life. You think Rebecca knowingly wearing Sara’s dead sister’s necklace is bad? That’s the least of this nightmare of a roommate’s bizarre behavior.
Yes, The Roommate is a lot like Single White Female, but for anyone who went to college and has gone through the random roommate process, this concept really hits home. Of the thousands of kids first starting college, it’s totally possible that you could get stuck with the wacko of the bunch. Perhaps “wacko” doesn’t necessarily mean killer, but the idea certainly makes you think.
Sadly, beyond the initial concept, The Roommate doesn’t make you think at all – unless it’s about how ridiculous this whole damn movie is. The film is asking for it right from the start when it opens with a few sequences packed with painfully cliché college behavior. Guess what happens at the frat party? The girls drink “punch.” And you know what? It’s spiked! And guess what else – one of the girls flashes a crowd of drooling boys. It’s people like writer Sonny Mallhi that give fraternities and sororities a bad name. Yes, this happen when you drink, but even the wildest moments in actual Greek organizations go down with more tact.
The story only gets worse from there. Mallhi may be an experienced executive producer, but when it comes to writing, he’s a novice and it shows. Maybe the guy isn’t 19 or 20, but he had to be at one point. Does he really think college students talk like this? Even worse than the dialogue is the structure of the story. Some horror movies can get away with those all-too-familiar lines, but prevail based on suspense alone. Well, that’s far from the case here simply because Mallhi gives everything away far too soon. There’s such a minimal attempt at making Rebecca even the slightest bit normal that nothing she does comes as a shock. There’s one moment in particular that had a fantastic chance of earning a dark laugh. When Sara introduces Rebecca to some of her other friends, the girls have some fun trying to come up with nicknames – Becca, Becky – but they’re stopped dead in their tracks when Rebecca says she likes Rebecca. It could have been a great subtle hint at what’s to come, but we basically knew it was coming the moment the conversation started.
This issue drowns the entire movie. Rather than freaking you out, seeing Rebecca lurking around a corner is just laughable. There’s really no tension at all. The only scares The Roommate delivers are through cheap shots like showing a bellybutton ring being ripped out or a knife piercing someone’s skin; they’re never earned.
Latching onto the characters to get you through this one isn’t an option either because they’re all as weak as they come. First off, Stephen is your stereotypical beautiful boyfriend, so he could have been played by any good-looking actor who can wear a pretty smirk for 93 minutes. As for Rebecca, that character is just ruined by ill-timed reveals. Rather than exposing her layers piece-by-piece, we’re tossed chunks of information at a time. Meester doesn’t do a half bad job at playing the deranged villain, but there’s really nothing she could do with such a poorly written role.
Lastly, Kelly is just plain old blah. Yes, she’s pretty, but there’s really nothing else to her and there’s something about her look that isn’t even very camera-friendly. But perhaps that could be due to a weak performance all-around. Kelly makes Sara a terrible one-note character throughout the film. If Sara’s terrified by this situation, she certainly isn’t showing it. On top of that, Sara is just dumb. As obvious as her weirdo roommate’s strange behavior is to the audience, is as obvious as it should be to her and the fact that she walks around for the majority of the movie ignoring it makes her come across as completely ignorant.
Good premise or not, The Roommate is a massive failure. Sure the typical horror movie formula works when it comes to delivering some good campy fun, but that doesn’t mean you can take the usual pieces, slap them together with scotch tape and call it a movie. The Roommate feels as though the filmmakers simply compiled the proper assets and then just kept their fingers crossed it’d turn into something. Sorry guys, pretty faces, some blood and alcohol don’t equal a good horror movie. Well, at least they got a decent soundtrack out of it all.
By Perri Nemiroff