Lily (Anne Paul) has long had a crush on Roman (Mike Rennat), and when Roman’s girlfriend Angela (Lisa Rennat) leaves town with her two daughters, seemingly placing Roman back on the market, Lily jumps at the opportunity. Lily’s abusive and strict mother (Kristine Medrud) never approved of Lily’s infatuation with Roman in youth, however, and even though she is long since dead, her disturbing influence on Lily remains. Meanwhile, Roman’s best friend Amos (Stanley Massey) pines for Lily, even though she only has eyes for Roman.
Things get complicated when Angela returns with her daughters, however, and Roman and Angela resume their relationship. As the couple moves toward marriage, Lily sees her dreams collapsing and finds that she has more in common with her insane mother than she ever thought.
Roman’s Bride is a thriller that turns more than a little horrific, and even a little supernatural, by its climax. It raises creepy comparisons to Carrie and Psycho in the dynamic between Lily and her dead mother, but predominantly plays like a slow drama for most of its running time, with the result feeling too dull for its own good.
The two major issues the film has involve pacing and overall believability. The latter would involve spoilers from the third act, so I’ll remain vague when discussing that point, but the pacing is something that can be addressed without such concerns. Mainly, the film’s narrative is far too bloated for it to keep up any real suspense. Scenes drag on for too long, and other scenes are inserted in odd places that serve less to elevate the film so much as distract and expand it.
For example, when things pick up action and suspense-wise in the final act, the film repeatedly cuts away from the more intense action to more sedate scenery, but to what end? It doesn’t really set another scene, and instead just feels like someone changed the channel right when you were getting into the program. It’s frustrating and uneven.
Additionally, suddenly periphery characters become more of a focus and the main group we’ve been following since the beginning fall into the background. I understand that a thriller needs victims, but they aren’t as well-established and, therefore, when the violence comes, you’re neither invested in their characters or surprised (because what other purpose do they serve).
To the point of believability, particularly in that third act, some severely disturbing violence occurs (including an incident with a garden hose that still has me shuddering), but the reactions just don’t make sense. At no point, as the violence mounts and things get more dangerous for all involved, does anyone take the time to call the cops or ask for help. One of the characters takes time, almost immediately after escaping torment and seeing some horrible s**t, to wash up in the bathroom, not warning anyone else about what’s going on or calling the cops! It’s just… I can forgive a lot of stupidity in horror or thrillers, but certain decisions and actions in this film just didn’t make sense at all.
On the technical side, the film does have some shortcomings with the audio and a general lo-fi look to its cinematography, but the composition goes a long way, in certain sequences, to transcend the limitations. The special effects and makeup, particularly when things get bloody, also leave a bit to be desired but the problems there are nowhere near as distracting as the ones regarding pacing and believability.
Overall, Roman’s Bride had some solid character development early on, and the portrayal of Lily by Anne Paul is memorable and disturbing for all the right reasons. The film doesn’t maintain what little momentum it has over its entire running time, however, and almost completely falls apart in its final act. There are moments to appreciate within, but when things go wrong, they tend to severely obscure the positives.
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