Reviews | Written by Martin Unsworth 26/04/2021

THE OAK ROOM

Director Cody Calahan (Antisocial) brings a suspenseful, claustrophobic, male-dominated drama that subtly burrows under the skin of the viewer, proving that stories are all you need.

During a massive snowstorm, a young man, Steve (R.J. Mitte), enters a bar just as it’s about to close. The bartender, Paul (Peter Outerbridge), knows him so is shocked to see him. It’s not long since Paul had to organise the funeral of Steve’s father. Steve has a tale to tell Paul, though. Although reluctant, he listens and gets more enthralled by what Steve has to say.

Adapted from his own stage play, Peter Genoway’s script is dialogue-heavy but never feels theatrical. For the most part, it’s a two-hander, particularly as the stories mostly only contain two main characters at a time. Genoway knows how to ‘goose the truth’ as it’s referred to here. By the time the penny drops, we’re more than committed to the engaging drama. It’s rare for a dialogue-driven film to be so effectively horrifying. The cast works the script flawlessly, with Ari Millen, Martin Roach, and David Ferry doing the honours in the tales being spun. When things do get nasty, it’s bloody but restrained. Which is not to say it isn’t visceral and shocking. The soundtrack by Steph Copeland is also beautifully haunting.

The influence of the Cohen brothers is undeniable, but The Oak Room is no facsimile and always feels its own beast. The direction is taut, building the atmosphere gradually until the tension is practically smothering during the denouement - a final shot that rivals Blood Simple for satisfaction.

Release Date: April 26th (Digital), June 14th (DVD)

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