Starring Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Sir Christopher Lee, Lee Pace
Directed by Antti Jokinen
Icon Home Entertainment
Release date: March 29, 2011: U.S.
July 4, 2011: UK
The Hammer studios was once the greatest name in horror movies. Based in England, it produced some of the most iconic horror movie series of all: Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, and also produced some outstanding thrillers. Led by a cast of the finest actors including Sir Christopher Lee it left other studios in its bloodied wake before retreating to its coffin. The Hammer name was once again brought to life in last year’s Let Me In and now with latest horror thriller, The Resident.
After an acrimonious split from ex-boyfriend Jack (Lee Pace), ER doctor Juliet Deverueax (Hilary Swank) is looking for a new home. Every apartment she looks at in New York is either way out of her price range or a shoddy excuse for a living accommodation. After putting up a wanted poster on the notice board at work, she gets a call about a beautiful, if slightly run down, building run by landlord/owner Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his elderly grandfather August (Christopher Lee).
Max is of the tall-dark-handsome-stranger mold. He’s a little shy but Juliet likes the cut of his jib and quickly moves in at a price that seems too good to be true (and guess what? It is!). Juliet enjoys relaxing in the dark solitude of her new home usually in the bath with a glass of wine. She gets on well with her hunky landlord and they eventually share a kiss.
Then the twist comes, and the shit hits the fan.
Briefly we see Max’s POV of the same timeline — he follows her, spies on her through holes in the walls from the secret passageways of the house. In the blink of a montage things have gone from ‘peachey’ to ‘shit creekey’. He has lured her in to his web (house) of deceit (pervy death). When Juliet rekindles her love for Jack, Max becomes super-jealous-psycho-man; he wants control and revenge over Juliet, the new object of his affections.
The Resident is a very slow burner but rather than come to a raging boil it does little beyond simmer. It’s all a bit too dark; the creepiest, most fraught with tension scenes are the ones (the very few) that happen in broad daylight. The second time we see Max and Juliet bump into each other in the art gallery the scene is rammed with creepiness that was absent first time around. The scene where Max makes himself really comfortable alone in Juliet’s apartment is awfully sick. The rest of the time I felt like I was watching shadows.
The excellent cast raise it above the standard thriller and the two leads are great. Morgan is tremendous as the disturbed landlord who is coy and kind, but with an underlying level of psycho. Swank is excellent as the victim at the center of Max’s delusions. She is the outwardly strong but emotionally fragile fish-out-of-water who obviously turns hard as nails (you’ll get the pun if you’ve seen the movie) as the acts dictate.
You’ll notice that I have barely mentioned Christopher Lee. One of the most iconic actors of the horror genre and the famous Hammer brand is criminally underused. Whether his presence here is to re-ignite the Hammer name or to pass the baton on to a new generation was unclear to me since he didn’t really do either.
Director Antti Jokinen handles his first English language feature well but the Hammer name, Swank, Morgan and especially Lee never quite reach the levels they are capable of. As such, The Resident, like Max, lurks somewhere in the shadows and never lets us see its true form.