Daniel Barber‘s The Keeping Room (Eagle/Lionsgate, 9.25) “is basically a cabin in the woods horror-violence flick about evil, almost-foaming-at-the-mouth Union soldiers trying to defile and murder three Southern women (Brit Marling, Hailee Steinfeld, Muna Otaru). Indiewire‘s Eric Kohn bought into it but I didn’t. There isn’t the slightest trace of half-sensible motivation or recognizable humanity driving the bad guys (Sam Worthington, Ned Dennehy) — they’re doing the old Jason Voorhees thing with a couple of rapes thrown in plus some personality sauce, period clothing, old rifles and so on. Brit Marling delivers the most substantial performance but that’s almost damning with faint praise in this context. I hate, hate, hate ‘evil’ behavior that lacks a semi-discernible motive. Cut away the art-film pretensions and it’s clear that The Keeping Room is pandering to the slobs who like their exploitation tropes the way low-rent Los Angelenos like their pickles and mayonnaise at Fatburger.” — from a 9.11.14 Toronto Film Festival review.
“I’m not sorry I saw it as Barber and particularly dp Martin Ruhe, who collaborated on Harry Brown, are fans of flavor and especially handsome, subtly-lighted photography. It’s given a classy treatment with period trappings (rural South in 1865, the end of the Civil War) and a few meditative detours. The latter refers to interminable dialogue scenes that are only half-decipherable due to the actors speaking in a kind of whispery Southern drawl fry (especially when Steinfeld has the floor…good God).”