Written by: Gianfranco Baldanello , William Rose
Directed by: William Rose
Starring: Daniela Giordano, Raf Vallone and John Scanlon
Reviewed by: Brett Gallman
A prison in hell.
The first few minutes of The Girl in Room 2A had me wondering just where in the hell this thing came from; itís not often that a title sneaks up on me, but Iíd never even heard of this until it popped up on Mondo Macabroís release list. Anyway, a girl is drugged, kidnapped, tied up, tortured, impaled, and then tossed off a cliff--all before the credits are done rolling! Itís all as feverish and deranged as any giallo, and I couldnít wait what to see what else it had in store; unfortunately, there wasnít a whole lot more where that came from, as the rest of the movie couldnít be more at odds with the intense, mysterious opening sequence.
Thereís still a mystery, I suppose, and it revolves around Margaret Bradley (Daniela Giordano), who eventually becomes the title character when she movies into Room 2A at a local boarding house after being released from prison (weíre assured--several times--that she was framed and mistakenly thrown in jail). It turns out that this place has a bit of a history with its female inhabitants disappearing and turning up dead, and the trio of people who run it all come off as guarding some sort of secret. Eventually, the brother (John Scanlon) of one of the previous tenants comes snooping around to figure out just how his sister died, and he enlists Margaretís help.
Iím not sure exactly how handy sheís supposed to be considering how dense she is. When she first arrives, she notices what can only be a massive bloodstain on the floor, but this somehow doesnít arouse her suspicion; instead, she just tries to clean it up. Such a gap in logic is usually a cause for concern, but, hey, this is giallo territory. Itíd be easier to roll with it if the film had any sense of momentum itself, but our duoís detective work is sluggish and plods along for an hour, with only some occasional weirdness punctuating it. Margaret has strange visions of a masked man dressed completely in red, and she finds herself stumbling about the hidden corners of the house that are adorned with creepy mannequins. She and Jack also run into another former tenant who was driven mad by her experiences, and we get a nice, warbly flashback that finally gives some sort of hint of whatís going on.
The scene weíre presented is like something out of The Bloody Pit of Horror, as the masked lunatic flails away upon a bunch of girls. About the only difference is that this person is fully clothed, so thereís no hint of beefcake campiness that Bloody Pit has; this scene is also all too brief, as weíre quickly whisked back to the filmís dull procedural. Thereís eventually a requisite love-making scene and some shady dealings going on with the boarding house owners before we finally get to the last fifteen minutes that prove to be almost as interesting as the first few. To reveal the particulars is to reveal the filmís big hand, so Iíll refrain, even though youíll probably have it mostly figured out about twenty minutes in. About the only thing I wasnít sure about was the masked psycho, and Iím not necessarily talking about their identity. Instead, I could never tell if the identity was even supposed to be a big mystery or if this was just some brute that handled these guysí dirty work. Once the mask was removed that question was answered, but the answer isnít exactly a shocker.
While The Girl in Room 2A is Italian, it feels like a cheap knock off in terms of style. Thereís plenty of familiar Euro-horror faces scattered amongst the crowd, buy director William Rose was actually from the American sexploitation scene. To say that it shows is putting it mildly, as this film is often flat and uninspired, especially during the lengthy passages of dialogue and investigating. You can tell that Rose is most interested in the real schlock since those sequences are the only ones worth noting. The climax has some especially gruesome bits that makes you wish some death sequences had actually been tossed in throughout the film. That lack of menace is probably the biggest problem here, as thereís no sustained sense of peril or direction; instead, some vaguely weird things might be going on, and none of it really pays off.
If you were to watch only the first and last fifteen minutes of The Girl in Room 2A, youíd likely be convinced that itís a classic giallo. In reality, these are just fantastic bookends that sandwich one of the more dull and dry entries in that particular genre. Whereas great gialli brilliantly weave and meander, The Girl in Room 2A just stumbles along in a fairly straight line and eventually only has a couple of impressively bloodied up corpses to show for it. Mondo Macabro has finally given the film a DVD release, and it features the uncut version of the film, which is presented via a sparkling new anamorphic transfer thatís very film-like--there are some imperfections and grain here and there, but the colors and detail often pop. You can choose between either English or Italian dubs, and both tracks are rather robust to be mono tracks--I was surprised by how much the sound filled the room. Besides a trailer and some other Mondo Macabro previews, the only extra is an 11 minute interview with Giordano. Giallo junkies will obviously want to snap it up, but donít expect to visit room 2A too many times. Rent it!
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