After last Decemberâ€™s waterlogged The Triangle, the Sci Fi Channel seems to have taken a less-is-more approach with this yearâ€™s annual miniseries offering, The Lost Room. Should â€œThe Key and the Clockï¿½? (the first of three chapters) be indicative of whatâ€™s to follow, the end result should amount to a tasty holiday banquet, low on the special effects carbs, yet sinfully rich and satisfying in terms of sweet TV snacking.
Sexy Six Feet Under grad Peter Krause plays Joe Miller, a Pittsburgh police detective juggling a messy custody battle for his daughter Anna with his investigation into charred bodies found at a local secondhand emporium. Joe and partner Lou Destefano (The Wire‘s Chris Bauer) discover that one of the victims was nuked clear into the walls, while a third, Ignacio, barely escaped the flambÃ©. Joe once tried to mentor Iggy into giving up his criminal ways, but he obviously failed. Iggy goes on the run in possession of the mysterious object at the heart of the pawnshop crime, the key to Room 10 at the Sunshine Motel — so says its red plastic fob.
After Joe hauls Iggy into the station for questioning, Iggy pulls a vanishing act, revealing that the key opens a rift in the fabric of space to the aforementioned motel room. From this way station, the keyâ€™s possessor can travel to anywhere he or she desires on the planet, through any door with a tumbler lock. Understandably, sinister agents led by The Weasel (played by the deliciously
campy Roger Bart, late of Desperate Housewives) prove they will stop at nothing
to take back the key. Riddled with bullets and dying, Iggy appears out of thin air behind the hall closet door in the Millersâ€™ bungalow in the ‘burbs. Thus, the key passes into Joeâ€™s hands.
While the ability to appear in the tunnel at a Penn State football game — or teleport to Cuba to buy cigars — is thrilling at first, having an alternate universe in the hall closet proves an unlucky thing for Joe and Anna (played by Dakota Fanningâ€™s gap-toothed kid sis, Elle). Through a series of unauthorized experiments, Anna learns that Room 10 resets itself every time the door closes. If she tosses a teddy bear beyond the threshold, or messes up the sheets on the bed, the bear will have vanished and the bed will be made the next time the door is opened — an ominous foreshadowing of what is to come.
Joe attends to his other pressing case — the custody battle — and escorts Anna to the hospital for a court-ordered psych evaluation. While there, he runs afoul of Wally Jabrowski, who can magically send people to remote Gallup, New Mexico, by tapping their heads with a bus ticket that also originated in Room 10 at the Sunshine Motel. Joe gets bonked and is shot to the desolate highway that stretches through Gallup not once but thrice, using the key to return to the hospital between visits. The fourth bout goes to Joe, who belts Wally in the beak and confiscates the ticket.
In order to retrieve his treasure and be on his way, Wally reveals information about the motel room, which many believe is where God went to die. As the story goes, He imbued the various objects in Room 10 with the last of His power. Wally again reminds us that there are forces out there that will go to any lengths to possess the objects. Joe hastens back to collect Anna at the hospital, but finds that The Weasel has kidnapped her. Weezie, in possession of a ballpoint pen that can nuke people to a crisp (as occurred at the pawnshop), lures Joe to an abandoned train station to exchange his young hostage for the key to Room 10. In the fracas, Anna gets trapped in the motel room and vanishes when it resets.
Other pivotal characters are introduced at a refreshingly gradual pace, rather than tossed in lump sums at the viewer. Thereâ€™s Dr. Martin Ruber (Dennis Christopher, who played foppish Eddie Kasprak in the Stephen King miniseries, It), Joeâ€™s CSI guy who discovers that a shadow organization called The Order is after the key and the other objects taken from the motel room. Jennifer Bloom (Julianna Marguiles) initially tries to pawn herself off at the station as Iggyâ€™s half-sister in order to claim his personal effects, only to stun Joe senseless with what appears to be a letter opener. She later reveals herself as an agent of a rival secret society called The Legion, which is dedicated to collecting the objects so they can be dealt with properly for the good of all mankind. Proving heâ€™s got the chops for dramatic acting as well as standup comedy, Kevin Pollack assumes the role of head villain Karl Kreutzfeld, a millionaire junk dealer in possession of the most powerful of the motel roomâ€™s objects: a small alarm clock that could help Joe rescue Anna from oblivion.
Originally produced under the title Motel Man, The Lost Roomâ€™s opening chapter offers escapism that’s perfect for cuddling on the couch under a blanket with the lights dimmed. It also makes you want to turn down the ringer on the phone, bolt the door, and hold it in with legs crossed until the next commercial break.
In Part 2, “The Comb and the Box,” Doc Ruby frames Joe for murdering Lou, and more cursed objects cast their spells as Joe continues his quest to save Anna from The Lost Room.