Paul Raschid grew up around filmmaking. His father, Neville, a producer, obviously had young Paul around the good and the great of British film from a young age. Perhaps he was even around international film, who knows, I am speculating, guessing. According to his IMDB profile, he studied film, along with English literature, at King’s College. If only he had decided to write a book instead of making films. Let me explain.
Written and directed by Raschid, and produced by his father, White Chamber is another woeful addition to the slew of tripe available to watch on Netflix. For some reason, Netflix is desperate to get into the film business. The fact that it is series that have been their strength seems to have been ignored, and they are going full throttle into film and film production.
As a person who watches a lot—a whole lot—of Netflix’s lesser-known films, English speaking and foreign, I can confidently say Netflix is not about to trouble the likes of Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, or Lionsgate. Onto the film.
The United Kingdom is in anarchy. Civil war has broken out and Zakarian (Oded Fehr) is the leader of a revolution vying to overthrow the government. A woman (Shauna MacDonald) wakes from unconsciousness. She is in a bright white chamber. A voice talks to her, asking who she is. She tells him her name is Ruth.
The voice asks her what she was doing. She claims to be nothing more than an administrative assistant. He tortures her, burning her, freezing her, electrocuting her. She asks to see who is taunting her. It is Zakarian. She recognises him.
Five days earlier, it had all been very different. A young woman, Ruth (Amrita Acharia) is an administrative assistant who has been recruited to a clandestine job within the government. She is to help with a secret experiment in which they test various drugs on a live subject within a white chamber. There are four people in the team; Dr Edgar Chrysler (Nicholas Farrell), Sandra (Sharon Maughan), Ruth, and the leader of the project, Dr Elena Chrysler (MacDonald), Edgar’s daughter.
In the white chamber is Zakarian. Ruth does not know what the project is, and Elena gives her questions short shrift, telling her she only needs to follow orders. Via food, they feed Zakarian various experimental drugs, and then test the effects of those drugs on his physiology through the chamber, increasing the temperature, lowering the temperature, electric shocks, nothing seems to faze Zakarian in his drug-induced haze.
The experiments continue over a couple of days. Ruth is uncomfortable with what she is seeing, Elena is seemingly taking a macabre pleasure in torturing Zakarian. She talks to Edgar. He tells her that Elena lost both her brother and husband in the war, her husband having joined Zakarian’s revolution.
Elena introduces another element. A woman. The woman is Anya (Candis Nergaard), she is in a chamber adjacent to Zakarian, separated by a glass partition. Elena lets him see her. They talk, Zakarian tells her that they will escape. Elena floods Anya’s chamber with gas. The gas is drugged causing Anya to act crazy. Elena drips acid onto Anya as Zakarian watches. Anya does not feel it.
Zakarian is hooked on the drug they have been feeding him, but Elena does not want to give him anymore. She relishes torturing him. The four have a meeting, and Elena informs them that the experiment is finished, and they have decided on the drug. Ruth realises it was a drug compound they had found days before.
Ruth and Elena argue. Ruth tells her she should have spoken up and that the experiment was unethical. Elena stabs Ruth with a scalpel. Edgar tries to stem the blood from the wound as Elena begins to panic. Sandra takes the scalpel off of Elena and takes her bloody tunic. She disposes of the clothing and scalpel and presses an alarm.
A dying Ruth releases Zakarian. A still high Zakarian attacks Elena, knocking her to the ground. He kills Edgar, biting into his neck and face, but is stabbed in the neck by Edgar during their altercation. Sandra opens the section to military personnel, believing they are there to help and is immediately killed.
The militia storm the complex. They come and find the bodies and a semi-conscious Elena. Zakarian has a twin brother who is the leader of the revolution. He puts Elena in the chamber. After he takes her out, he tasks her with creating a drug to help end the war. The end.
Good god, this film is awful! Ten minutes into proceedings, watching Shauna Macdonald writhing around in that bloody cube, as though it was some shitty, abstract stage show, I had to check how much longer was left in the film. The opening, with a montage of riot footage, bombings, some CGI-ed carnage, and Zakarian spouting bollocks about taking back the country, I knew I had made a mistake to start watching this film.
I am not one to hammer actors, however, the acting in this film is poor. The wretched script and story do not help, but the acting is still horrible. Acharia is the only actor who puts in the only passable performance. Nergaard’s Anya is so bad it is almost painful to watch, and the camera shots do not help at all.
Truthfully, it boggles the mind to think that Raschid grew up around filmmaking. Did he even watch films? His shot selection in this is just bad, with overuse of close-ups, and very little camera movement.
I like a tripod as much as the next filmmaker, but the occasional zoom would not have gone amiss. Besides the lacklustre execution of the story, there is no sense of the story actually going anywhere. Because one is only told about war and unrest across the land, and is not really given a character to empathise with—or is given the wrong character in Ruth to empathise with—one has no vested interest in proceedings.
White Chamber is the kind of film that reinforces the cynic in me, making me believe it is not what you know, but who you know that helps you to get ahead in life. How a project as god-awful as this could not only get made but find itself on Netflix is proof positive that nepotism is alive and well in the film industry. White Chamber is a turd. Avoid.