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The Resident (A Movie Review)

Updated: Feb 23


Starring Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Christopher Lee, Lee Pace, Aunjanue Ellis, Sean Rosales, Deborah Martinez, Michael Massee, Penny Balfour, Kisha Sierra, Peggy Miley, Michael Showers, Sheila Traister, Nana Visitor and Michael Badalucco.

Screenplay by Antti J. Jokinen & Robert Orr.

Directed by Antti J. Jokinen.

Distributed by Image Entertainment/Hammer Films. 91 minutes. Rated R.

Note to prospective renters: If you are looking for an apartment in the New York five-borough area and you are offered a huge old gothic apartment with a stunning view, for a price that appears to be too good to be true – then it probably is. Keep this simple rule of thumb in mind and you will greatly lower your likelihood of winding up trapped in a cheesy horror film.

I wish that someone had sent a memo to Hilary Swank – or better yet to her agent.

You would think that having won two Oscars for Best Actress would have freed Hilary Swank from having to do this kind of sleazy exploitation role. Yet here she is, playing a spectacularly dumb victim in a landlord-from-hell “shocker” in which she is forced to take entirely too many soft-focus baths for an actress of her stature.

This is the third of four new films released by the recently reconstituted legendary British scare factory Hammer Films – which was responsible for some of the most recognizable b-movie horror tales of the 50s and 60s. In fact, in a nice bit of corporate symmetry, old-school Hammer star Christopher Lee appears in a supporting role in The Resident.

However, even back then the Hammer Horrors were acknowledged to be cheesy exploitation fare and after decades on the shelf, the name no longer has the cachet to sell movies. The Resident is being slipped directly out on video with little fanfare about eight-months after a short theatrical run in England. The first Hammer film released in Europe last summer, with the awkward title Wakewood, is to my knowledge not even set for a video release. The second one was Let Me In, which was actually pretty good and earned a short US run and good critical response. The third film, The Lady in Black, will soon get an (undoubtedly brief) US theatrical release – no doubt due to the star power of lead actor Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame.

The problem is clear cut, though – at least in the case of The Resident (I can’t speak for the other films as I haven’t seen them yet) – the film did not get a theatrical release because it was simply not good enough for one.

The Resident is not so much scary as it is silly and rather predictable.

Swank plays Juliet, a Brooklyn emergency room doctor. She has just caught her boyfriend (Lee Pace) cheating and now she needs a new place to live, STAT. After visiting several small, dingy old apartments, she gets a call about an old building down by the river. It is huge and charming and the building, which is going through renovations, is nearly empty. In fact, it seems the only other tenants in the place are the handsome, affable landlord Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his mysterious elderly grandfather (Christopher Lee).

For the first half-hour or so of the movie, the landlord seems ideal – cute, smart, sensitive, artistic, courtly, a wine connoisseur, proficient with repairs and caring alone for his elderly grandfather. Then just when she is on the threshold of ignoring her better common sense about the complications of getting involved with a man she has to rent an apartment from and is about to kiss him, the film rewinds – quite literally, you actually see it – and shows the darker aspects of his personality and the disturbing elements of their time spent together.

Suddenly the landlord is exposed in a completely different light, turning out to be obsessively following her and more than a little creepy. He’s also distraught that she sent him mixed signals, kissing him and then pulling away. Not being the kind of guy who buys into “no means no,” he starts following her, watching her through peep holes and letting himself into her apartment regularly with trap doors and the master key. And why does Juliet keep oversleeping?

Then her ex shows back up on the scene, and they decide to try to make a go of it. Now the guy is really pissed.

She better not expect to get her security deposit back.

If you are picturing the film ending with a grim battle to the death between Juliet and Max in the catacombs of the huge old building, then congratulations, you have seen more than one horror film in the last three decades.

The problem with that is, if you’ve seen more than one, chances are pretty good you have seen a better horror film than this contrived mess.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2011 All rights reserved. Posted: March 29, 2011.


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