Roommate Wanted is a phrase that holds so much potential both good and bad. From the possibility of cheaper accommodations and pleasant company, to the threat of being forced to coexist in a small space with the worst person imaginable. Since people getting along makes for boring movies, especially horror movies, you know which end of the spectrum the events in writer/director Michael McCartney’s film are going to fall on.
Maria (Angelique Sabrina White, Blood of Drago, The Message) is a college student with problems. She’s not sure about her choice of majors and she can’t find the courage to come out of the closet, let alone tell her friend Kate (MJ Garcia) that she has feelings for her.
More immediately pressing however is the fact she’s broke, as is her roommate Ricky (Ricky Cruz, Spud, Travisty) and their third roommate Adam has died under circumstances that have the police asking questions. With their landlady Faye (Carol Stanzione, The Witch in the Window, Deliver Us from Evil) breathing down their neck they need to find a solution fast. This is where Dean (Jack Shulruff) comes in.
The first part of Roommate Wanted is almost totally devoid of horror. It’s more of a college dramedy and coming of age story centered around Maria’s attempts to get her life together. And as such it’s passable with moments that are quite funny, such as Ricky referring to Faye as “Cruella de Vil, but without the sex appeal.”.
“I’ve always loved horror films because they are the perfect combination of escape, artistry and subversion. I love the challenge of telling a story that has mixed tones, as well as delivering larger social themes masked with laughs and thrills.”Michael McCartney
At times however Roommate Wanted has a very strange, out of touch, feel to it, Ricky, who’s white, talks about passing someone off as his cousin only for Maria to ask him, “How? He’s black”. In a world full of interracial relationships and mixed race families that comes off as distinctly clueless.
Once the cracks in the seemingly perfect Dean’s story start to show, Roommate Wanted changes fast. The tags on his luggage, says Vlad. As in Vlad the Impaler or Vladimir Putin, not exactly a good omen either way. And while Dean is quiet, reserved and claims not to drink he’s soon partying hard and insisting his name is Charlie. It soon becomes clear, at least to Maria, that Dean, or whoever he is, has multiple personalities. And as in films from Psycho to Death Drop Gorgeous those other personalities aren’t very pleasant.
Once it arrives, the violence in Roommate Wanted while not particularly gory, does feel brutal, and is well staged and convincing looking. Most of it, apart from a couple of kills that probably would have broken the effects budget, are on camera too. The same can be said for the brawling we get when the roommates fight back. It may take a bit longer than I would have liked, but again its solid and well choreographed, especially for a low budget film.
Overall Roommate Wanted is a good film that feels like it suffers from multiple personalities itself as it shifts abruptly from lightweight drama and social comedy to humorless and grim horror. It’s a good first feature for Michael McCartney after several shorts, and the mostly unfamiliar cast, including Isabela Valotti (The Lost End) as Ricky’s girlfriend Lucy, deliver performances that should get them noticed as well.