Friday, 25 March 2011

The Resident (2011)

The wolf in the walls.

Image: Hammer Film Productions

First, we would like to address the fact that much of The Resident’s promotional material has given away the identity of the film’s villain. This review is written assuming that you haven’t had this, admittedly not very surprising, surprise spoiled for you. It had been ruined for us, although it didn’t affect our enjoyment of the film.

Juliet Devereau (Swank) is a New York ER doctor on the look-out for a new apartment. She finds the perfect place, but there’s got to be a catch. She starts to think that someone is spying on her. Could it be the handsome, nice landlord Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)? Or Jack (Lee Pace), her cheating ex-boyfriend who won’t stop calling? Or even Max’s grandfather August (Christopher Lee), who has the unnerving habit of appearing in doorways?

Interestingly, the audience is given the answer to this question about twenty minutes into the film. That’s not to say that anyone who is even vaguely familiar with the genre won’t have spotted the lecherous voyeur about a minute after they appear on screen. The distributors have also thought it wise to give the identity of the aforementioned lech in much of the promotional material. However, it means that director Antti Jokinen gives him almost as much screen time as Juliet.

Swank’s performance is very solid indeed, making Juliet a likeable central figure to root for. She also steers clear of a good deal of the usual stupid mistakes that a horror movie heroine can make, at least up until the final sequence. She also serves as Executive Producer here, which probably accounts for why she’s in it. Now, that’s not a dig at the film especially. The Resident has a good deal of pedigree in front and behind the camera, with Director of Photography Guillermo Navarro (Pan’s Labyrinth) having a great time playing with the shadows and a decent score from John Ottman. It’s also part of Hammer’s recent re-launch, which, alongside the participation of Swank, probably helped it finally find its way to movie screens rather than directly to DVD.

It’s difficult to talk about the rest of the cast without giving away which is the man in the walls. Morgan (Watchmen) shows he can work very well with more screen-time than he usually gets, Pace (TV’s Pushing Daisies) gives Jack a nice ambiguity. And what can we say about Sir Christopher Lee that hasn’t been said a thousand times before? His role here is small, but he can speak volumes with a single quick glance.

There’s nothing on display that you haven’t seen before. However, the perversions of the film’s villain allows for some hilariously OTT, flesh-tingling moments that work as often as they fail. The architecture of the apartment allows for some genuinely creepy sequences. As things progress towards the finale, everything gets a little too predictable, but it’s too efficiently crafted to be dull. The Resident is entertaining, and silly, enough to be a guilty pleasure, and is occasionally nastily effective, but it’s not especially memorable.

A capably made and well performed thriller that’s better than expected, but nothing special.



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