The Roommate (15) * *

Alyson Michalka as Tracy
Alyson Michalka as Tracy
David Calder as Julius Caesar in the play of the same name at The Bridge Theatre. Picture by Manuel Harlan

Beware the Ides of March, but enjoy this screening

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Higher learning can seriously damage your health in Christian E Christiansen’s plodding psychological thriller about a university student, whose fresh-faced roommate turns out to be a kitten-killing psychopath.

First-time screenwriter Sonny Mallhi might try to pass off this tawdry tale of poisonous obsession as his own work but this is pure plagiarism, transplanting the 1992 pot-boiler Single White Female to the campus of a fictional university.

Pivotal scenes including the stalker’s seduction of her victim’s beau in the dark have been ripped off virtually frame for frame from the 1992 film and any Sapphic undertones in the original have been made explicit in the most crude fashion for the target teenage audience.

Yet while Christiansen’s film is brash in many respects, when it comes to the solitary bedroom scene, intercutting one girl’s romp between the sheets with the other student’s breathless telephone sex, The Roommate turns coy.

Close-ups of perfectly glossed lips and whitened teeth, shuddering with orgasmic glee, are juxtaposed with images of fingers entwined, a mouth kissing a neck and expertly conditioned hair falling perfectly across an exfoliated brow.

It’s a fragrance commercial without the tagline.

Fashion student Sara Matthews (Minka Kelly) leaves behind her tragic past in Des Moines to start afresh at the University of Los Angeles.

She is welcomed by wealthy roommate Rebecca (Leighton Meester), who listens sympathetically as Sara relates the loss of baby sister, Emily.

‘You’re the first roommate that I’ve had since she died so it’s a little odd... in a good way,’ confides Sara forlornly.

Friendship blossoms and Sara heals her wounded heart in the arms of hunky freshman, Stephen (Cam Gigandet).

It becomes clear to everyone but Sara that there is something dreadfully amiss with her roommate and as the truth finally dawns, her dormitory pal Tracy (Alyson Michalka), ex-boyfriend Jason (Matt Lanter), teacher Professor Roberts (Billy Zane) and sister Irene (Danneel Harris) fall victim to Rebecca’s rage.

The Roommate is neither creepy nor scary, and it becomes laughable how blinkered Sara is to the truth, even when her roommate is spouting ominous lines like, ‘It’s hard to let go and believe me, I know.’

Only when Rebecca’s icy mother, Alison (Frances Fisher), asks if her baby is taking her medication does the dime drop.

Kelly looks pretty in close-up but there’s no emotional depth to her performance while Meester meekly subverts her Gossip Girl persona.

Gigandet and Lanter are eye candy and Zane is laughable as a lecherous professor, who trades pass grades for sexual favours and is impressed by Sara’s appropriation of a Chanel quotation about enduring style.

Christiansen’s film, alas, has no discernible style, trading in cliches of the genre plus a gratuitous scene of animal cruelty that will have cat lovers in a spin.