The film kicked off with a black and white scene inside room 27 during the Japanese Occupation period in Singapore. A Singapore Chinese man was having a conversation with a middle-aged British man, about the Japanese, covert operations and running away from paradise, to paradise. It felt like a long and tedious conversation until one realized that the two men were lovers. And room 27 was their weekly rendezvous.
As the conversation seems to drag on, and slightly titillating, I began to fidget in my seat. And then abruptly, the black and white scene disappeared into a full coloured view. It was Hong Kong actress Josie Ho’s cue, appearing in the ’60s A Go-Go era.
Based on a series of fictional tale that happened within Room 27 in a once-glamorous fictional hotel, Singapura. In The Room told six tales of carnal pleasures and secrets through the decades, from the Japanese occupation to Singapore’s independence. As much as I love Eric Khoo’s 12 Storey and Mee Pok Man, In The Room was painfully slow. The scripts were almost amateurish, camera angles were rough, scenes cut abruptly, some of the actors were boring and overly theatrical, and you barely noticed any soundtrack.
It was a mess.
The only two things that barely saved the film was having a big name actress, Josie Ho, and Japanese AV (adult video) actress, Shou Nishino.
I began to notice why Broadway Cinematheque in Yaumatei, Hong Kong, was filled with single middle-aged men. There were giggles and exclamations from the audience when Josie Ho, who portrayed an experienced prostitute sex guru, displayed her genital prowess to a group of newbies. Rated as a category three film in Hong Kong, Shou Nishino stole the show by baring full frontal and did numerous uncut sex scenes with different actors, including a bonus 3 seconds copulation scene with Malaysian actor, Lawrence Wong. Shou’s scenes took up one-third of the entire duration of the film.
Koh Boon Pin, a familiar Singapore face in the film, made his reappearance as one of the gay lovers in the opening scene of In The Room. He had acted in Eric Khoo’s 1997’s 12 Storey. However, his performance in In The Room was almost robotic, while Daniel Jenkins had more flair and portrayed more emotions as his lover.
As the film got grittier, images of room 27 were getting more and more dilapidated from the first story to the next, and finally, it looked like a pornographic ghost story.
I exited the theatre with a wave of disappointments by In The Room. Maybe I had set my expectations up too high as I had high regards and respects for Eric Khoo’s creations. Has Eric Khoo lost his touch? If so, he should stick with directing a one-story film like 12 Storey and Mee Pok Man or focus on producing films for Boo Jun Feng and Roystan Tan.
Filmed in September 2014 by Principal Photography within ten days at Infinite Studio in Singapore and produced by Nansun Shi and Zhao Wei Films, and distributed and financed by Distribution Workshop. The $800,000 budgeted film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2015 and travelled to the San Sebastián International Film Festival, Busan International Film Festival. It almost opened in Singapore during the 2015 Singapore Film Festival. Still, Eric Khoo withdrew his submission for a rating for the film from the Media Development Authority (MDA) as the MDA had deemed that two scenes exceeded the R21 rating guidelines. However, on February 25, 2016, the film was given a general release after an “international version” with subtle differences from the original was passed with an R21 uncut rating by the censors.