‘The Oak Room’ — a slow burner with a rich horror story

‘The Oak Room’ (2020). Supplied
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Updated 30 June 2020

‘The Oak Room’ — a slow burner with a rich horror story

CHENNAI: The late Ismail Merchant, who made magnificent cinema along with James Ivory, would often say a good movie must tell a good story. Cody Calahan’s (“Let Her Out”, “Antisocial”) newest film “The Oak Room,” part of the recent Cannes Market held on a virtual platform, true to Merchant’s thinking, is rich in the way it builds up the plot and conveys it.

The work, one of the 56 titles that the Cannes Film Festival picked but could not screen as the coronavirus pandemic stopped the 12-day event in May, begins on a cold, icy night with a blizzard raging, an apt setting for a gothic horror. The mysterious happenings revolve around a Canadian snowstorm, making the movie a compelling watch. 

The film stars R.J. Mitte and Peter Outerbridge. Supplied

Amid this gloomy and dark night, Steve (R. J. Mitte) walks into a bar, just about to pull down its shutters. After many years, he returns to repay an old debt to bartender Paul (Peter Outerbridge). But Steve tells a rather annoyed Paul that he would give back the dues in the form of a story. What slowly emerges is a terrible tale of mistaken identities, brutal violence (including decapitation) and a threat to expose the town’s secrets. 

Written by Peter Genoway (an adaptation of his own stage production), “The Oak Room” — despite being a chamber piece, and with just a couple of characters on the screen most of the time — gets you completely engrossed in the lives of the two men. The film draws you into the suspense with studied precision until it reaches an exploding point, throwing up twisted facts and sheer gore, even while examining a father-son relationship.

Most brilliantly portrayed by Mitte and Outerbridge, the narrative demands one’s undivided attention. Otherwise, viewers can lose the thread of the plot. Calahan throws subtle hints and peppers his story with clues. But they are not easy to spot, and “The Oak Room” is certainly not for one who may wander in and out of the room to take a phone call or get a bag of popcorn.

Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

Updated 07 July 2020

Johnny Depp denies ‘wife-beater’ claim in London libel trial

  • The high-profile case has laid bare Johnny Depp and Amber Heard’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017
  • The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film ‘The Rum Diary’ and married in 2015

LONDON: Hollywood actor Johnny Depp strenuously denied being violent to his ex-wife Amber Heard, as he launched a libel claim in a London court on Tuesday against a British tabloid newspaper that called him a “wife-beater.”
The “Pirates of the Caribbean” star, 57, is suing the publishers of The Sun and the author of the article for the claims, which were made in April 2018.
Depp, wearing a dark suit, white shirt and facemask, was met by a throng of cameras as he arrived at court while Heard, a 34-year-old actress, used a separate entrance.
The high-profile case has laid bare the couple’s turbulent relationship, which ended in divorce in 2017, just two years after they married.
But Depp said in a witness statement submitted to the court: “For the avoidance of any doubt, I have never abused Ms Heard, or, indeed any other woman, in my life.”
He said it was a “strong and central part” of his moral code that he would never hit a woman, having witnessed domestic violence growing up and vowed never to do so.
“I find it simply inconceivable and it would never happen,” he added.
“She (Heard) is a calculating, diagnosed borderline personality; she is sociopathic; she is a narcissist; and she is completely emotionally dishonest,” he went on.
“I am now convinced that she came into my life to take from me anything worth taking, and then destroy what remained of it.
The couple first met on the set of the 2011 film “The Rum Diary” and married in 2015.
News Group Newspapers (NGN) is contesting the case, and is relying for its defense on 14 separate claims of domestic violence said to have occurred between early 2013 and May 2016.
It argues Depp was “controlling and verbally and physically abusive toward Ms Heard, particularly when he was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs” — and has evidence to prove it.
But Depp said it was the other way round, accusing Heard of violence against him during their “unhappy” time together.
In one alleged incident, he said she repeatedly punched him in the face, and in another severed his finger with a flying vodka bottle and stubbed out a cigarette on his cheek.
Heard has claimed she was physically assaulted over three days in Australia in early 2015 but Depp called the allegations “sick... and completely untrue.”
He rejected claims of being overbearing and instead said Heard had an “obsessive need” to control him, encouraging him to drink and take drugs, despite his well-known addiction issues.
Depp’s lawyers, in a written outline of his case to the court, also argued that although the couple’s relationship was at times “physical,” it was at Heard’s instigation.
Lawyer David Sherborne said his client on occasions had to defend himself from Heard’s violence, calling her allegations “complete lies.”
“He is not a wife-beater and never has been,” he said.
Heard was a “complex individual,” whose behavior was “extremely unpredictable,” with violent rages and prone to extreme mood swings, he added.
She sought attention, was provocative, had affairs, and was on a “wide range” of prescribed medication and other drugs.
Depp loved her but found her behavior “often bewildering” and “very difficult” to understand or deal with, he added.
Depp was the first witness called in the case and under cross-examination admitted using drugs and alcohol from a young age to “numb the pain” of a difficult childhood.
But he rejected suggestions from NGN lawyer Sasha Wass he had a “nasty side,” that saw him turn into a “monster” who would lose control, smash up hotel rooms and assault photographers.
“It wasn’t Dr. Jekyll and Mr.Hyde,” he insisted.
The Sun story — “Gone Potty: How can JK Rowling be ‘genuinely happy’ casting wife beater Johnny Depp in the new Fantastic Beast film?” — came after he had already publicly denied domestic violence.
Depp said he had suffered “significant reputational damage” as a result, both in terms of his career and personally.
The High Court trial is due to last three weeks.