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Movie Review: Red Door

By Mike Everleth ⋅ November 24, 2008

Girl with face covered in blood

David Pike‘s unsettling short flim, Red Door, has a modern, slick look, but with a completely charming anachronistic bent. In these modern times when we’re warned daily on the cable news channels about “the terrorists” and their tiny, destructive dirty bombs, Pike imbues his thriller with good ol’ fashioned Cold War anxiety about mutual assured destruction.

Into an austere, wood-panelled office enters a young hipster dude, Todd Transoma (Bilal Mir), with thick sideburns and a crisp black suit. He’s either indulging in a self-conscious, irreverent, retro-’50s look, or perhaps the film is actually taking place in the ’50s. Since a good ninety percent of the film is set in this cramped office with no glimmer of what the outside world looks like, there’s really no way for the viewer to fully know what time period the action is taking place.

Furthermore, primarily through the stark, electronic score by Eric Meyer, the film recalls the work of early David Cronenberg, so there’s also definitely an ’80s vibe to the production. In addition to dark, moody films like The Brood and Videodrome, the ’80s brought us sincere, but cheezeball apocalyptic entertainment like The Day After. Red Door is overall a grim piece of work, but there’s enough sly, dark humor running beneath the goings-on that feels as if Pike is pulling in all these different bits to through the audience off-guard. Is the imminent nuclear holocaust a put-on or a serious threat? Perhaps nuclear warheads whizzing over Todd’s head is just the relief he craves to put himself out of his misery. They could be a product of his own wishful thinking.

Todd’s only companion is a hand-held tape recorder into which he spills his minute-by-minute hopes and dreams. He starts his day openly wishing that maybe today could be a special day. He also wishes to find out what lies behind the red door. Although his office is devoid of color and personality — much like Todd himself — there’s an ominous red door sealed with a padlock embedded into the wall next to his desk. The door is old and plain looking, but it stands there mocking and torturing Todd just by its ominous presence.

Just as Todd’s day is beginning, he receives a phone call telling him that the bombs are on their way and that he should just sit still and wait for further instruction. This launches Todd into a flashback where he interviews for his current job with a pretty HR representative (Tiffany Shepis), whose blood red lipstick mimicks the color of the door. She is also as mysterious and beguilng as the door, completely unable to tell Todd what his job will even be. He agrees to take it anyway just to take his mind off of a recent tragedy: The death of his wife. Although we don’t know what she actually died of, Todd obviously harbors a tremendous guilt over her passing.

During the flashback and then flashing back to the present day, the film turns from mildly offbeat to outright surreal. The red door has completely infiltrated Todd’s consciousness. Red is now everywhere, having spilled from the door to pools of blood on, in and around Todd’s desk The lighting scheme also moves from a flat, even tone to cutting swathes of brightness and darkness.

Maybe instead of the flashback ending to return to present time, the film has gone even deeper into Todd’s soul. His wife does briefly reappear in either a symbolic representation of her demise or an actual recreation. Either way, the red of the door, the lipstick on the HR woman and the blood filling up in the office is all part of the symbolic blood Todd feels is on his hands for his wife’s death.

But the film tries to distract us from this symbolism in the way that Todd is most likely trying to distract himself from the truth. His obsession is with the red door, which isn’t really a door at all, but a red herring. It’s like the eponymous structure in Stephen King’s Dark Tower series, an outward physical object that forces the main character to search inside themselves.

Watch the Red Door movie trailer: