'Room 104' has something for everyone

In HBO's new 12-part anthology series from the Duplass Brothers, the only recurring character is a budget hotel room.
In Episode 1 of "Room 104," "Ralphie," a babysitter watches a disturbed little boy and loses her grip on reality in the process. Photo: HBO/Jordan Althaus

Mark and Jay Duplass are a prolific duo. The sibling writer-director-actor-producer pair have put out more than 25 shows and films together, including HBO's "Togetherness" — not to mention the projects they’ve helmed individually. 

 

Up next, they have a new show on HBO that calls to mind their more experimental indie work, such as the films “Creep” or "The One I Love": “Room 104,” a 12-part anthology series premiering Friday, July 28 at 11:30 p.m. Each episode takes place within the same semi-seedy, budget hotel room and features a completely different storyline and cast. The concept might call to mind the Quentin Tarantino film “Four Rooms,” but the difference here is none of the stories are linked.

 

The only thing connecting each 20-to-30 minute episode is the room itself. While you might not take to every installment, with such a wide range of subject matter and genre, you’re bound to enjoy at least one of 12. Perhaps the series is a kind of Rorschach test for the viewer, and while some episodes elicit an emotional response, others can only be appreciated on an intellectual level. 

 

The first episode, “Ralphie,” will likely appeal to horror fans. When a young woman arrives at Room 104 to babysit, she discovers something is very wrong with the young boy and loses her grip on reality along the way. Another episode, “My Love,” is a touching look at an elderly couple that books a night at the hotel to relive their first-ever night together. In “The Knockadoo,” a woman meets up with a quack spiritual advisor who is supposed to help her transcend the material world, but what ends up happening is much more creepy than occult. In “The Internet,” an aspiring young writer realizes he’s left his laptop at home. When he calls up his mom to painstakingly walk her through how to email him a draft of his novel, she ends up confessing a family secret that will change the course of his life and the future of his writing. 

 

Mark Duplass wrote seven of the twelve episodes, which are each helmed by newbie directors. Except for a few familiar faces, including Jay Duplass, James Vanderbeek, Amy Landecker, Mae Whitman, the series mainly features no-name actors. According to IndieWire, Mark Duplass told the audience at ATX TV Fest’s “Room 104” premiere that this enabled him to “take creative risks” while keeping the series low-budget and giving directors just starting out an opportunity for some name recognition. We recommend settling in on Friday evenings — maybe smoking some weed first to get in the mindset — and booking a night in “Room 104.” 

 
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