NEW TO HULU! Like science-fiction and comedy, horror taps into our darkest emotional fears as human beings and then scares the hell out of us. Based on Nanami Kamon’s horror novel, Ben Jagger’s Room 203 is about lifelong friends Kim (Francesca Xuereb) and Izzy (Viktoria Vinyarska). They’ve crossed into adulthood by moving into a big city apartment together, specifically room 203. Kim is going to study journalism at college, and Izzy is making a go at it as an aspiring actress. Though best friends, Izzy is working through the trauma of her mother’s suicide, and Kim is there for support and hopefully curbing Izzy’s drinking.
Unknowingly, the two rent a cheap apartment with a dark mystery. In the living room is an enormous stained-glass window depicting what appears to be the final battle of a holy war. In Kim’s bedroom is a hole in the wall emitting a horrible odor. Almost immediately, Izzy decides to dig around in the hole and finds a necklace with an interesting pendant. Throwing caution into the wind, she puts it on, and now we have a horror story.
True to the genre, creepy occurrences begin to happen. Both Kim and Izzy start having nightmares. Kim thinks she sees a crow crawl into the hole. Izzy is found in the living room, staring at the stained glass window in a trance-like state. But she just brushes it off as her chronic sleepwalking.
“In Kim’s bedroom is a hole in the wall emitting a horrible odor.”
Room 203 does an excellent job of paying homage to Asian horror. Following the traditional story structure, something strange happens in the girl’s apartment, artifacts and evidence are found, while our protagonists must piece the clues together before someone dies or succumbs. The film finds its horror from a few benign jump scares, intense music, and terrifying imagery and deaths. Francesca Xuereb is in ninety percent of the movie, and she is charismatic and plays the protagonist wonderfully.
The production values are incredible, considering that the narrative can be boiled down to two young women staring at a hole in the wall. Now, add sound, lighting, and music, and director Jaggers has himself a truly horrific film. Storywise, the mystery is not so complex. There is a theme of guilt and betrayal lurking in the background. The novel and screenplay use the deteriorating relationship between Kim and Izzy in clever ways to propel this terrifying tale.
On the grand scare scale of Asian horror, with The Ring and The Grudge as its standard-bearers, Room 203 is on the lighter side of horror. There are horrific moments, but you’ll be able to sleep at night. I scare pretty easily when it comes to horror and managed to make it to the end without any permanent damage, which means it might be too tame for hardcore fans, but just right for avid fans of indie horror flicks.