This is a phenomenal springboard for an intriguing tale of mystery and suspense. I was pleasingly and snugly settling in for what I imagined might be a flashback yarn concerning a cover-up to an accidental murder or a mistaken/ assumed identity.
Instead, I got a story that flashes back, then back further, then back to the present, and back again, involving the curious events at a bar called The Oak Room. What happened at The Oak Room, why, and what does it have to do with Steve’s reappearance in the town?
The problem is, once we arrive at The Oak Room, it’s more talk and more stories. With slow camera pans, ominous atmosphere, and unsettling music, the movie wants to convince us that something peculiar is going on. Though, the truth is that nothing much happens until the film’s concluding twenty minutes when all is (sort of) revealed. The Oak Room is a movie that purports to be seen as a dark and twisty backwoods noir but takes so much time getting to where it actually wants to go that by the time the story winds itself up, we’ve lost interest.
“The physical production is first-rate all the way.”
It’s a shame because the stellar acting from a committed cast and the superb production quality could have been better and more aptly used in a leaner, but not necessarily meaner, piece of work. Mitte as Steve and especially Outerbridge as Paul have some wonderful moments in which they volley threats across the bar.
The physical production is first-rate all the way. The Oak Room is beautifully photographed by Jeff Maher and directed by Cody Calahan with economic uses of close-ups and camera zooms that heighten the sinister mood.
But if a story is uninvolving and the pace is sluggish, what’s the point of fine performances and an effective mood? Had Calahan and screenwriter Peter Genoway tightened up the narrative, The Oak Room might have been on par with the most terrifically spooky episodes of The Twilight Zone.
"…what happened at The Oak Room?"