Suicide is a touchy topic to handle in film. The balance between emotional impact and harsh depiction is a tricky one to strike. In horror, that balance is even more delicate. How far is too far? At what point does it go from stark depiction to glorification? Sam Wineman seems to have struck that balance well in his short The Quiet Room, in which a previously-partnered man, Michael (Jamal Douglas) attempts to take his own life, but winds up in a psychiatric hospital following the incident. Here, he learns of Hopeless Hattie (Alaska Thunderfuck), a ghost of the hospital who lures suicidal patients into the darkest expanses, before claiming them for her own.
Throughout the film, Michael is haunted by the memory of his deceased boyfriend Ben (Indar Smith), who lost his life protecting Michael following a hiking accident. Though some of the hospital staff, such as nurse Amy (Lisa Wilcox), though others like David (Brian McCook, aka Katya Zamolodchikova) are less than helpful. Can Michael navigate his time in the institution and get his life and livelihood back? Or will he fall to the allure of Hopeless Hattie?
The monsterification of suicide in Hattie, the old hag with claws and a grating voice, is a great choice for making such a broad concept so concrete. Through her iconic vocal fry and her movements, Alaska Thunderfuck makes Hattie into a terrifying creature. In all, this characterization, both by the production and by the acting, helps to put a face on such a grim and nasty subject like suicide.
Michael is a troubled, but endearing character, and Jamal Douglas plays the role well. In asylum / mental hospital stories, it’s so easy to go one of two ways: either a) the manic, unpredictable patient who starts an uprising, or b) the catatonic, sedated type who has more or less accepted their fate. Michael is a character who recognizes what he’s done to be there, but knows that his attempt does not make his crazy, does not make him insane, does not make him a bad person. He is a normal human being, and Douglas’ acting, right down to the simplest of mannerisms, make Michael a likeable protagonist, the kind you want to root for, rather than the kind you may only feel compelled to root for.
The conversation about suicide among LGBTQ persons is such a delicate one to have, but of all things, the horror short that is The Quiet Room does so in ways that can open that door and make the conversation just a bit more bearable. With queer icons like Alaska and a de-dragged Katya, there is enough LGBTQ representation (at least, of the mainstream recognition variety) to draw in the community at large. It is a nuanced queer horror, The Quiet Room, but it is within this nuance that the film as a whole succeeds.
Watch Sam Wineman's The Quiet Room below, courtesy of Crypt TV.