Dir: Henry Olek
Starring: Ross McCall, Susan Priver, Jude Ciccolella
The Guest Room (aka Serving Up Richard) is an odd gem of a film, and it is surprisingly engaging despite being labelled as a cannibal film. Now I have nothing against cannibal sub-genre films, this element worked well for Hannibal Lector for example, but the very notion of cannibalism is not something that has mass appeal for film audiences. I have seen my fair share of films that contain cannibalism (Cannibal Holcaust, Let Them Die Slowly and The Cook, The Thief, The Wife And Her Lover come to mind), and they surely can be either hit or miss. The Guest Room is more The Wife And Her Lover than Holocaust and it aims to examine certain elements of the human condition. I can assure you, this is actually a rather unique film in its premise, and it does try to keep a unique execution even if it doesn’t entirely work. I admire it’s raw ambition, and it’s aim to be different, this was quite the experience.
I went into this film blind, the way I like to experience films these days. I only knew about the cannibal aspect, so I had no idea what to expect. The story is about a very odd couple Everett and Glory Hutchins (Jude Ciccolella and Susan Priver respectively), they are cannibals and their lives are lived full of ritual. They have a special guest room which is where they house their sacrifices, this is a place that Richard (Ross McCall) is going to find himself. Richard and his wife have just moved to Los Angeles, after Richard made some bad business decisions and hurt many of his co-workers. This is his escape, and not long after moving he answers an ad to buy a used car. Little does he know, this ad is a ruse by Everett, and Richard is captured. Is this some kind of strange karma for Richard? Are they going to eat him? Well you’ll just have to watch this one to find that out.
I would rather not delve into spoilers with this review, but this is quite heavy on the karma element, self torture, rituals and exploring the human condition. There certainly is a lot at play and it lays on the metaphors throughout, which is always fun to explore. The film isn’t boggled down by just one genre, it is a mixture of genre’s and it changes genre’s all throughout. This is not strictly horror, or a thriller or a black comedy, and not sticking to a specific genre actually works. It does feel a little confused as to what it wants to be, but this doesn’t really hurt at all. In the end it keeps itself free, and it has enough of a mixture to have a larger appeal. It handles its violence very well, it is very much implied, and because of this, the film hid its low budget and it does come off looking very nice.
The three central performances are mostly very good, with Susan Priver as Glory stealing the show. She goes through a lot, and her character has the most development. Glory carries this innocence about her, but she also seems a little crazy. There is a huge change we see from her, which comes from the relationship that she forms with Richard. Her intentions aren’t always clear, and I liked that part and I liked how Priver played it. Jude Ciccolella is in it the least of the three but he certainly makes his presence felt. For the most part he is quite good, more mysterious and quite sinister. I was a little thrown off by his sudden bursts of film quotes and it just didn’t really ring true with the character. I can only really remember seeing Ross McCall in several episodes of TV’s White Collar, and he was good there. He’s also very solid here, and worked great against Priver. He did most of his work within the confines of one room and he really sold his abduction and his need to escape.
Henry Olek did a nice job of directing, and the script he wrote was very intriguing. The film is actually 10 minutes too long, and having some unnecessary scenes cut out would have made this a better flowing film. It does suffer from some unsteady pacing and at times it did lose me, especially when it went a little too ‘off the rocker’. Some of those moments just didn’t suit the film, but over all these things didn’t ruin the experience at all; having a tighter more focused film would have been nice though. At the end of the day this is a worth while watch, I found it rather interesting and enjoyed Susan Priver’s performance.
The Australian DVD:
The DVD I reviewed was a screener, so I am unable to comment on Picture/Audio quality.
DVD details here.
Thanks to Bill care of Accent Film Entertainment for the copy.