Hammered by hokiness
THE SECOND film to be released under the refurbished banner of Hammer Films, this urban shocker will, no doubt, lure a few middleaged horror fans to their local Enormoplex. The presence of Christopher Lee alone should drag them away from their gargoyleadorned fireplaces. This is, after all, the first time Hammer’s crown prince has appeared in one of the studio’s films since To the Devil a Daughter emerged in 1976.
Don’t hurry, fellows. Far from being an old-school gothic horror, The Resident is closer to a stab-thelady thriller in the mould of Black Christmas or When a Stranger Calls. Nothing wrong with that, of course. It’s an honourably disgusting genre and, for the first half hour or so, The Resident rations its shocks and jolts quite nicely. Then it all falls apart into silliness.
Hilary Swank plays a busy doctor in search of a new apartment. Having, it seems, never seen a horror film before, she quickly reaches for her chequebook when a landlord (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) reveals that his spacious property – featuring a view of Brooklyn Bridge – is available for the cost of a Staten Island hovel.
Sure enough, something is up with the roomy suite. Strange rumblings brew in the night. A sinister elderly man (who looks like that fellow out of the proper Hammer films) peers through a cracked door whenever she makes her way down the corridor.
The picture cautiously plays with our unease during the build-up. Is the flat haunted? Is the building a portal to something or other? Then, abandoning all subtlety, the film-makers offer us a hasty, clumsy flashback that identifies the menace all too explicitly. Pointless running around ensues.
The Resident is a peculiar project. Nicely shot in looming browns, featuring actors you’ve actually heard of, it appears to gesture towards mainstream crossover territory. (Does that title allude to Polanski’s The Tennant?) But the film is so slovenly and half-hearted in its execution that it never fully escapes bargain-bucket territory. The Hammer renaissance is not quite with us yet.
Geezer pleaser Christopher Lee is always good value Directed by Antti Jokinen. Starring Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lee Pace, Christopher Lee