Twelve Shorts for the Shortest Month #4: The Woman in the Room (1983)

US / 30 minutes / color / Gregory Melton Dir & Scr: Frank Darabont Pr: Gregory Melton, Frank Darabont Story: “The Woman in the Room” (1978 Night Shift) by Stephen King Cine: Juan Ruiz Anchia Cast: Michael Cornelison, Dee Croxton, Brian Libby, Bob Brunson, George Russell

John (Cornelison), a lawyer and loving son, is being torn apart by the plight of his mother (Croxton): in the final stages of terminal cancer, she’s been given a cordotomy to relieve the agony, but the pain still persists. John knows an overdose of her old painkillers would put her over the edge into merciful oblivion, but can he really contemplate killing his own mother?

Without revealing his motives, he picks the brains of a multiple murderer (Libby) he’s representing, but is hardly reassured: the prisoner tells him the only killing that ever hit him hard emotionally was the mercy killing of a buddy in Vietnam who’d had his legs blown off and was falling prey to gangrene.

Michael Cornelison as John

Once again John must wrestle with his conscience . . .

There’s a nightmare sequence about two-thirds of the way into The Woman in the Room that’s particularly striking. In staging and coloration it reminded me of elements of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, although the old maestro might have learned something from the young one about the art of restraint: we feel John’s terror, but that doesn’t come about through any sense of grossout.

Dee Crozton as Mother

This was one of Stephen King’s “dollar babies,” instances of the writer selling non-exclusive screen rights in one of his short stories to student moviemakers, and in this instance he must have been over the moon at the result: everything about the movie is first-rate, not least the performances of the three principals. For director/scripter Frank Darabont it was the start of an illustrious career that has included three further Stephen King adaptations, two of which are regarded as cinematic classics: The SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION (1994) and The Green Mile (1999). (The third was 2007’s The Mist.) Born in 1959 in a refugee camp in France, his parents having fled Hungary after the crackdown, Ferenc Árpád Darabont came as an infant to the US as a refugee. The lesson is obvious.

Brian Libby as the Prisoner

The Woman in the Room was released on VHS as half of a “dollar baby” double bill, Nightshift Collection (1994), the other half being Jeffrey C. “Jeff” Schiro’s King adaptation The Boogeyman (1982), and is one of several adaptations of King’s story. Others include:

  • La Femme dans la Chambre (2005) dir Damien Maric
  • The Woman in the Room (2014) dir Jared Collins
  • The Woman in the Room (2016) dir Dave Brock and Roger Echols
  • The Woman in the Room (2018) dir Romanos Papaioannou

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