Horror films of the 90s were integral to the tonal shift of the horror genre from the raw and gritty films of the 70s and 80s to the polished and sanitized films of the early 00s. Don't get me wrong, there were some great ones created in the decade such as: DEAD ALIVE (aka BRAINDEAD), CANDYMAN and of course the Craven classic, SCREAM. It's thought that SCREAM brought horror back to the mainstream audience making it more accessible and less of a dirty underground secret.
However, there were some lesser-known 90s horror films like: CASTLE FREAK, DR. GIGGLES and one of my favorites, BASKET CASE 2. Whether it was a different film stock, cheaper lighting or the inevitable lower budget, the 90s horror B-movies were definitely the hick second cousin from Podunk, Florida to their bigger budget Hollywood counterparts. These movies weren't typically "good" movies, but they did have their own tacky style and a sort of smarmy charm.
THE BLACK ROOM, written and directed by Rolfe Kanefsky, harkens back to those halcyon days when Kurt Cobain still had his head intact, we were Gettin' Jiggy Wit It, political correctness was in its infancy, and Duane and his brother Belial finally found happiness in their significant others. The movie itself is set in the present day and is modern for all intents and purposes. The 90s vibe comes in the form of the style and tone of the film.
Married couple Jennifer (Natasha Henstridge) and Paul (Lukas Hassel) move into a seemingly lovely home only to find out that deep inside the home's basement is a room, a black room, where a ritual was performed 40 years earlier. This ritual unleashed a horny sex demon, or incubus, that was more than happy to bring pleasure to all who inhabit the dwelling. Sounds fun, right? Well, it most certainly is!
THE BLACK ROOM delivers on several levels. The tone is set during the clip-art inspired intro. It's cheap and cheesy but intentionally so. The makeup and gore effects are mostly practical with only a few scenes using obvious CGI. It also contains a wonderfully 90s amount of skin and some sultry performances by the film's female cast.
Have I mentioned the cast? What a cast it is! Not only do we have SPECIES star Henstridge, but the indomitable Lin Shaye, LOLITA (1997) herself, Dominique Swain, Greg Araki alumni James Duval, though most of you probably know him as "Frank", and a sneaky cameo by Ministry frontman Al Jorgensen. Seriously, what's not to love about this cast? There's also a standout performance by Hassel after he's *SPOILERS* possessed by the horny incubus.
Another 90s vibe I got from the movie was the not-so-political correctness. There were a few scenes that could be trigger-inducing by today's standards. They were played in a way that had them feeling more sexy than sexually abusive. There were also many a scene involving women writhing around with immense pleasure calling back to the days of made-for-cable skin flicks. Kanefsky's previous experience writing and directing softcore films shines through in this amusing romp.
If you're in the mood for some sexy fun, THE BLACK ROOM has what you're looking for. It's by no means a perfect film and may not be suitable for a general audience, but fans of horror comedy with a skanky edge will definitely get something out of it. Do you enjoy a lecherous old electrician who speaks in double entendres? How about a randy demon who feeds off the sexual energy of others? If so, then this movie is for you! After all, it's hard to fight what feels good.
Cindy Van Wert
THE BLACK ROOM will be opening in select theaters April 28th and will be available on VOD May 9th.