x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

DVD review: The Resident

Starring Hilary Swank, this could have had potential as a good horror, but the storyline and suspense are just not there.

The Resident
Director: Antti Jokinen
Starring: Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Christopher Lee
**

When something seems too good to be true at the start of a film, nine times out of 10, it's not long before we discover that it really is. This is especially true when it comes to property, which soon ends up proving to be less of bargain dream home when all the ghosts start coming out of the cupboards and killing everyone.

In The Resident, however, it's not the spooky spectres that do the terrifying, but a rather creepy landlord. Having moved into a spacious yet strangely affordable New York apartment following the break-up of her relationship with her boyfriend, Dr Juliet Devereau (Swank) soon notices that things aren't entirely hunky-dory. At first it's the flat's proximity to the subway, which has a habit of making things shake a bit whenever a train goes past. But a few wobbly window shutters wouldn't be much of a horror film, would it? It's not long before the real villain materialises: Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the jolly beardy, ever-helpful landlord who, it quickly transpires, has a rather unhealthy crush on his new tenant.

Juliet doesn't help matters when she gives Max a bit of a kiss one night, perhaps as a thank you for doing so much DIY (he's mainly seen with a staple-gun), but many might argue that Max takes it a bit far when he spies on her using a series of secret corridors and peepholes. Not content with his role as the friendly neighbourhood Peeping Tom, Max ups the creepy ante somewhat by entering the flat to touch her clothes, use her toothbrush and lick her fingers while she's sleeping.

It's all very sinister. But, while the jerky camera angles and high-pitched strings suggest high suspense, the story just doesn't provide it. The issue is mainly that we know who the baddie is right from the start, and it's a guy with a fuzzy beard who looks quite a lot like Javier Bardem. If they'd kept the identity a mystery till later on, or even suggested that there might be something supernatural going on, it might have worked. But they didn't and it doesn't.

Another issue is the speed, or lack of it, with almost everything up to the inevitable final action-packed climax being about as slow as a wet weekend. Almost an hour in and, aside from a bit of voyeurism gone too far and a few shadowy atmospheric shots, not a great deal has happened. Christopher Lee pops up all too briefly as Max's bed-bound, near-dead dad and a clue to his son's all-out weirdness, but it's not nearly enough to rescue this from the abyss of dullness.

It's a shame really. The girl-in-distress/mentally-unstable-landlord combo could have made for quite frightening stuff, especially since this was released by the newly rejuvenated Hammer Film Production studios (it was bought by a Dutch consortium in 2007). Let's just hope that their stage-to-screen adaptation of The Woman in Black, due out next year, doesn't suffer from a similar lack of spine-chilingness. Because that would be horrifying.

Five more

Choosing the right accommodation is often stressful, especially in cinema.  Here are five other films with addresses that should perhaps have been avoided.

Psycho (1960)

The daddy of all the guesthouse-gone-bad films, Bates Motel will forever be inked on the minds of those solitary drivers searching for a bed for the night on lonely highways. While it may have been bad for the businesses of eerie roadside hotels, on the upside it probably reduced their hot water bills.

The Changeling (1980)

If you’re looking for a new home in which to find solace after losing your family in a tragic car accident, the last place on Earth you’d want is a big ol’ mansion haunted by the ghost of a murdered child, as George C Scott soon realised in this Canadian classic.

The Shining (1980)

While the Overlook Hotel might have looked rather grand in the pictures, Jack Nicholson’s Johnny might have taken the time to check its deeds regarding one Indian burial site before he agreed to take charge as the caretaker manager. Barely has there been a less suitable spot to focus on one’s writing.

House on Haunted Hill (1959 and 1999)

If you’re going to hire a long-abandoned mental asylum for a Halloween party, you pretty much deserve to be tormented by “the darkness”, a shape-shifting creature composed of the spirits of those who have died there. Next time, pick a hotel ballroom (but not the one in the Overlook Hotel or Bates Motel).

Hostel (2005)

The number of backpackers heading to Eastern Europe probably took a dive south following this blood-soaked horror. Note: if a man urges you to go to a hostel near Bratislava with the promise of beautiful women, don’t go, unless you like having psychotic businessmen prod you with knives.