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The Lodgers (Movie Review)

The Lodgers (Movie Review)
02.21.2018by: Jake Dee
5 10

PLOT: Twin siblings in 1920 Ireland are faced with a malevolent presence in their family’s historically accursed, 700 year old mansion. If the two can abide by the ghastly rules of The Lodgers, they can stay. If not, they’ll die!

REVIEW: Three years after delivering the decent feature debut in the psychological hoosegow horror-show LET US PREY, Irish director Brian O’Malley has harkened back to 18th century Ireland to usher in THE LODGERS, an atmospherically pulchritudinous yet anemic and gauntly meager tale of period-set Gothic horror. That is, the movie is stunning to look at, and even props up a uniquely intriguing, mythos-laden premise. Alas, the more its story turns and plot-points begin to unravel, the more you realize how vaporously little there is underneath it all. Set and shot in the historical real life locale of Loftus Hall, one of the Emerald Isle’s most haunted houses, the movie excels most in its inherently eerie and moodily moldering location and captivating screen presence of Spanish siren Charlotte Vega. In the end, however, THE LODGERS simply isn’t inhospitably horrifying enough!

Rustic Ireland, 1920. Edward (Bill Milner) and Rachel (Vega), a pair of orphaned siblings dwelling in their family’s 700 year old mansion, live as tacit hostages to a host of ghostly entities known as The Lodgers. These sinister spirits keep to the bottom floors, own the night, lend the day to the twins, and by these three simple rules will allow them to peacefully coexist. First, they must be in bed by midnight. Second, they must never allow a stranger inside the house. Third, they must never leave each other alone. As the film opens, we sense an instant rift between Edward and Rachel, the former a simpering sap unwilling to ever break the rules, the latter too curious of the outside world and too sexually aroused to remain under such strict lock and key. Rachel meets a young war-vet amputee named Sean (Eugene Simon), whom she lustily daydreams about and eventually engages with. Her desires naturally lead to all sorts of rule bending, particularly when an old family banker named Bermingham (David Bradley) shows up claiming the house will be sold due to insufficient trust funds. The twins can’t have that, and the Lodgers damn sure won’t tolerate it!

Not to demystify the rest of what’s a pretty promising but ultimately dead-ended premise, there are three inviolable strong suits THE LODGERS has going for it: the sinister setting, the sumptuous cinematography and the alluring standout turn from Charlotte Vega. Starting with the foreboding verisimilitude of Loftus Hall itself, its towering façade, foggy garden exteriors, wrought-iron gates and right on to the abstract furnishings and morbid décor on the inside – empty bird cages, dusty candelabras, oddly shaped bed-frames, statues facing the wall, etc. – there’s a lived-in authenticity here that was glaringly absent say in the recent release of WINCHESTER, a similar real-life-haunted-house conceit. And the way DP Richard Kendrick, who normally shoots documentaries, stylistically lights and lenses this intrinsically spooky place is of remarkable note, often done by candlelight or hard slants pouring in through door-cracks and thin windows. The look of the film and the mood it evokes is superb. The only thing more gorgeous than the way the movie appears is the way Charlotte Vega radiantly comports herself onscreen, as she’s easily the strongest character in the film, complex and unbounded, and as a result, comes off as the most impressive actor of the lot.

Aside from some wincingly stilted dialogue, a frustrating cul-du-sac plotline and very few genuine scares, the biggest downfall of THE LODGERS is its lifeless sense of drama. We only remotely care for Rachel, while Edward’s stake in the sibling union is reduced to being downright detestable in the end. He’s not only a lachrymose chap to start, pathetically so, his quasi-incestuous ickiness by the third reel is too much to forgive. The dramatic weight needed to make any viewer actually feel for what their looking at, the characters, not just the arresting beauty of the production, simply isn’t there. What’s more, the rules laid out by the lethal Lodgers, rules that could have very well made for an original haunted house yarn, are never convincingly capitalized upon. In fact, they cease to make sense at a certain juncture in the story. Not so spoil, but if an interloper ends up as a blood-fuel for the Lodgers to operate upon, why would they actively bar such? By this logic, wouldn’t they want as many bodies to feed upon as possible? Guess not. Even if this situation were misread, the main gripe holds. The dramatic gravity, in the absence of legitimately felt fright, never really matches the heavy allure of the way the picture looks.

In capping, THE LODGERS sort of squanders a promising premise that’s meant to both channel and expound upon Gothic horror of yore, never credibly enforcing the very rules its story establishes. A bit dispiriting, as its these rules that very well could have given way, if executed with more dramatic flair, to a unique spin on the age old haunted house subgenre. However, speaking of age old, one of the absolute strengths of the flick include director Brian O’Malley’s decision to set and shoot the film in the real life Loftus Hall, the 700 year old Irish haunt that adds an innate eeriness and authenticity to the production value. The place feels rightly real, its decrepit beauty only outdone by the movies luminous star Charlotte Vega. If only the drama of the story and frightful attempts felt as real as THE LODGERS place of residence!

Extra Tidbit: THE LODGERS hits select theaters Friday, February 23rd.



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