Ham­mered by hok­i­ness

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Filmreviews -

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.

irish­times.com/cul­ture

Geezer pleaser Christo­pher Lee is al­ways good value Di­rected by Antti Joki­nen. Star­ring Hi­lary Swank, Jef­frey Dean Mor­gan, Lee Pace, Christo­pher Lee

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