A movie about a story about a bar being told as a story in another bar. It’s really not as confusing as it sounds. The Oak Room is a clever film that uses a decent pour of reverse chronology to wet your whistle while making for an interesting watch.
During a raging snowstorm, a drifter (RJ Mitte) offers to settle a debt with a grizzled bartender by telling him a story. The night’s events quickly spiral into a dark tale of deceit, mistaken identity and shocking violence.
Directed by Cody Calahan (Let Her Out) and written by Peter Genoway, the film stars RJ Mitte (Breaking Bad), Peter Outerbridge (V-Wars), and Ari Millen (Orphan Black). While technically a thriller, the film has a solid mafia/mobster feel to it that definitely adds to the mystery that we find ourselves within. The UK premiere for the film took place at Grimmfest in October following its world premiere at Fantasia in 2020.
The Oak Room is a good example of indie-done-A-grade, with a handful of characters and sets utilized incredibly well. I grew up in bars just like the ones featured in the film (not a great brag, I am aware) and there was definitely some nostalgia when it came to the father/son drama and the blue-collar rawness of the characters. The chronology was not messy (which it could have easily been) and worked well for the plot. I found the characters mostly believable, with Mitte’s Steve and Outerbrige’s Paul, offering great performances; their onscreen chemistry really working well with their back-and-forth banter. There were, however, a few moments where I felt that the script was a touch manic, leaving the actors unsure as to whether they were meant to be calmly chatting or snapping at each other’s throats. Although this was a minor gripe, it was definitely a recurring quandary.
I enjoyed the story and the pacing of the film and it kept my attention throughout. You know there’s always something more just around the corner and there are plenty of unanswered questions and conundrums at the start that keep you guessing all the way through. While some will probably say that they saw the ending coming, most would say that it was definitely worth the ride. There are more than a handful of dark moments in the plot, a good splash of gore here and there, and some very Snatch/Pulp Fiction style dialogue between characters. The cinematography was wonderful, especially the shots of the snow and the foreboding scenes of the car on the highway, with crisp and clean editing stitching it all together really well.
Sure, there are flaws–an awkward moment here or there or a plot point that didn’t seem fully realized, but I am absolutely willing to overlook those as–on the whole–The Oak Room was a definite two-thumbs-up. I hadn’t seen anything quite like it before and that is always a treat in and of itself. I enjoyed the characters and the story had me hooked throughout. It was not really a horror flick sans a few gruesome scenes and a handful of pub stories, but it will almost definitely scratch the same kind of itch.
Commenting on the release, Matthew Kreuzer, Commercial Director at Lightbulb Film Distribution, said:
“The Oak Room was one of the highlights of Fantasia last year, and we are thrilled to be bringing this dark thriller to UK, Ireland and ANZ audiences in April. The film is both haunting and disturbing in equal measure and RJ Mitte’s performance is outstanding.”
Thanks for reading and as always, stay sordid. The Oak Room will be released on digital download from April 26 in the UK, from April 27 in Canada (Black Fawn Distribution) and from April 28 (also Lightbulb Film Distribution) in Australia and New Zealand and can be pre-ordered here. Trailer and poster below.
Site founder. Horror enthusiast. Metalhead.