What is the secret of Room 327?
US / 19 minutes / bw / Dead Leaf, Lucky Studio XIII Dir & Scr: Glenn Payne Pr: Glenn Payne, John Wee Cine: John Wee Cast: Carlton Wall, Michelle Payne, Daniel Lee, Brandon Murphree.
A young man, John (Wall), books into Room 327 at the Mockingbird Suites, as instructed by a note from whoever has kidnapped his unnamed girlfriend (Payne)—or it could be his wife, or his sister: the relationship is never made clear beyond the fact that, clearly, he cares very much about her. With him he has a satchel that we assume contains the ransom payment.
Carlton Wall as John.
Although he doesn’t notice it until later, when he enters the room its ashtray contains a freshly lit, still smoking cigarette.
Instructions come to him from an anonymous voice (Murphree) on the phone: he must take the satchel down the hall and dump it in a garbage can he’ll find there. But that’s not the totality of the ransom he must pay.
Daniel Lee as Ricardo.
Driven to distraction not just by the stress of the situation but by constant extraneous interruptions—the room’s faulty alarm clock intermittently blares bluegrass music (by the band Bluff Creek) at him; the front-desk clerk, Ricardo (Lee), phones and eventually comes to the room claiming there have been complaints about shouting coming from it—John must somehow stay focused enough to obey the instructions he’s given, or the girl will die . . .
Michelle Payne as the Girl.
This is in many ways a very neat little psychological thriller whose noirishness is emphasized by its use of black-and-white rather than color stock—and excellent use cinematographer Wee does make of it. There’s an “oops” moment when we see the outside of the room’s door and there, plain as day, is the number 400, rather than 327, and the sound editing of the phone calls could do with some improvement; but far more serious than either of these blemishes is the fact that the lead—almost the only—actor’s skills aren’t really up to carrying the full burden of the movie: in speech and in action, there’s the constant sense that he’s going through the motions rather than living the part.
Even so, Room 327 is more than worth its 19 minutes, and a couple of the twists in its second half do come as genuine surprises—at least, they did to me. You can watch it online here.