"Evil can only be handled on its own terms. To forgive is to absolve it."
After spending two weeks in jail on a trumped-up charge, Margaret Bradley (Daniela Giordano) rents a room from Mrs. Grant (Giovanna Galletti). But she soon finds herself haunted by strange occurrences - a bloodstain on her floor that re-appears after it's washed away and terrifying visions of a mysterious figure in a red cape and mask. Before long, she is approached by Jack Whitman (John Scanlon) who is investigating the disappearance of his sister, another troubled young woman who once rented the same room. Margaret and John's search leads them to an asylum and to a mysterious cult, led by a man only known as Mr. Dreese (Raf Vallone). Who is the killer in the red vestments? Why does the cult kidnap troubled young women? Will Margaret be their next victim?
With its creepy nighttime visions, spooky apartment setting, cast of weird neighbors, and a plot that centers on an evil cult, The Girl in Room 2A has more in common with Rosemary's Baby than with traditional gialli like The Black Belly of the Tarantula. We're clued in pretty early to the fact that the killings involve a sinister cult, but clues, motives, and identities are revealed gradually in this rather deliberately-paced film. But if you want a better movie in a similar vein, check out Short Night of the Glass Dolls.
- When Margaret arrives to live at Mrs. Grant's house, she notices the photo of the deceased Mr. Grant sitting on the piano. This is an interesting reference to a similar scene in The Girl Who Knew Too Much. That scene led me to believe that Mr. Grant would make a surprise appearance at the end of the film, like in Bava's classic. This was, unfortunately, too much to ask of The Girl in Room 2A.
- This is the last film directed by William Rose, who is best known for such campy skin-flicks as 50,000 BC (Before Clothing), Rent-A-Girl, and The Hookers. As an actor he also appeared in Werner Herzog's acclaimed film Fitzcarraldo.
- This movie was produced by Dick Randall, whom you may remember as the bombastic writer, producer, and actor in The French Sex Murders.
- Giovanna Galletti's name is mis-spelled in the credits.
- For the purposes of the check boxes above, I'm counting the prison as an "all-girl institution." We don't see any other patients, but the psychiatric hospital might also be for women only.
The version of the film that I saw had a weird effect throughout, where the backgrounds would occasionally warp and wobble but the foregrounds stayed still. I don't know if it's in the original movie or if there was a problem with the digital transfer, but either way, it's a spooky effect.
In a scene right out of Dario Argento's bag of tricks, Margaret sneaks into Mrs. Grant's son's room to look for clues and finds an eerie collection of snakes, specimens in formaldehyde, and doll heads.
Jack rents a room in the building next door and, apparently, pays his rent in scotch.
Margaret is eventually kidnapped by the cult and, in a moment of compassion, Mrs. Grant's son, Frank, gives her a key to help her escape. One scene later, we watch her cell door swing open as she makes her exit. So was the door locked from the inside? Then how did they lock her in? This makes no sense.
While searching Mrs. Grant's house, Jack discovers a machine pumping blood (or some red liquid) through a hole in the ceiling, into the floor of Room 2A. It explains the mysterious re-appearing stain, but what was the point of all that? All that effort just to unnerve Margaret?
Margaret almost always appears in red and white. Mrs. Grant almost always appears in violet.
Margaret's social worker, Alicia (the great Rosalba Neri) gets some really interesting clothes, but here's something weird:
In this scene, Margaret's life is in chaos and the pattern on her blouse features orderly, organized rows of tiny polka dots (not visible in this photo). Alicia is being calm and reassuring, but the pattern on her blouse is wild and jarringly chaotic. They seem to be wearing each other's clothes.
Finally, a fashion tip for the gents:
There's never a valid reason to tuck your tie into your pants. It makes you look like a dufus. And for the love of God, put on a belt.