Monday, July 30, 2007

The Lost Room, "Play All" Version: Grade A


The Lost Room (2006)

Peter Krause, Julianna Margulies, Kevin Pollak, Directors: Craig R. Baxley & Michael W. Watkins

The DVD main menu lists several segments, such as “The Key,” “The Comb,” etc. At the bottom of the list there is a button for “Play All,” which I clicked. After 42 minutes, one goes to the second DVD where the same situation prevails, to play the last 30 minutes or so of the movie.

The result is a dizzying, surrealistic head trip that I quite enjoyed. So much is unexplained, including the central thesis of the story, that the viewer must use very active imagination to keep up. Yet there is enough skeleton in that 75 minute movie to drive the characters and the plot, making the movie an exhilarating, creative sci-fi / horror journey.

One learns that there is a room in an derelict, abandoned motel near Gallup, NM, in which ghosts are held prisoner, some since 1961 when “something” happened (we know not what). The protagonist (Krause) wants to rescue his 5 year old daughter from the room. How she got in there or became a ghost is unknown. There are a lot of non sequiturs, but one must go with the flow, for no details are given. The point is, as in Dante’s Inferno, that the hero wants his girl back. The key to the room is the key to the plot, for it is a magic key that not only opens the door but activates the ghosts.

The magic key is sought by sinister groups of “object hunters” who covet it and several other magic objects, like the comb and the bus ticket. Each object has a unique magic power, some lethal. We see the objects used in the movie, and can only surmise their backstory, but we get the picture that they are magic and that there are desperate bad people hunting them. A travel alarm clock apparently trumps most other objects in this intricate “paper-scissors-rock” scenario. It’s a wild, creative ride, and an interesting metaphor for the common person's anger at science for having demystified life.

Well, it turns out that the full story of all the objects is told if you click on each segment individually instead of “Play All,” which does not play all. It’s a software error on the DVD (or maybe not). I wondered why they needed two disks for a 75 minute movie.

A little research revealed that this is or was a television miniseries on the Sci-Fi channel and the whole story runs to six hours. I never heard of it (I am one of only six people in America who does not have cable). Once I discovered what was up, I went back and started watching the individual segments, where everything was explained, but I soon lost interest and didn’t finish. I don’t like everything explained. I thought the weird, trippy surrealism of the 75 minute synopsis was perfect as cinematic art form. It was very well photographed, well-acted, extremely well edited, with good music and a compelling main story line (father saving daughter). The full 6 hour version is full of sci-fi gadget worship, writerly contrivances, and becomes tedious. I give my A grade to the “Play All” version.

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