Starring Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Christopher Lee
Directed by Antti Jokinen
Distributed by Icon Home Entertainment
Moving into a new property is always a stressful situation, especially when you have very little time to do so. Doubly stressful is when you discover, too late, that your new landlord is a complete asshole. In The Resident, lead character Dr. Juliet Devereau has a little more to worry about than that: He’s not just an asshole; he’s a psychotic asshole.
Fresh out of a long-term relationship turned sour, Juliet finds herself in need of a new place to stay. Soon enough, she’s offered an impressively huge flat within a period building at a price too good to resist. Her landlord, Max (Morgan), is a shy but friendly guy with an endearing smile and, soon enough, her rebound hormones find their relationship moving towards more than landlord and tenant territory.
As strange occurrences within the apartment begin to build up, Juliet discovers the true nature of her new chum: An obsessive madman, completely infatuated with her, who enjoys spending his time spying from within the walls and indulging in a little drug-assisted sexual molestation.
It comes as somewhat of a surprise that the flagship film for the resurrected Hammer franchise (The Resident went into production before the more suitable Let Me In) would entirely lack the kind of uneasy, gothic horror that generally typified the brand at the height of its genre popularity. Perhaps an easy sell like this one was simply the cost of getting enough backing behind the resurrection as The Resident really is an entirely by-the-numbers affair. Think Sliver meets Pacific Heights, but lacking the kind of energy (erotic or malevolent) that either of those movies mustered, and you’re almost there. That’s not to say that The Resident isn’t a decent flick – it is – but it traverses a road so well travelled that you can do it with your eyes closed by now.
This leaves it almost entirely dependent on its star power, and the cast deliver admirably. Swank plays the vulnerable and confused heroine with genuine conviction, and Morgan is a piece of casting perfection as Max. His rugged everyman looks and smiling eyes make him an instantly empathetic figure and, later on, instantly threatening as the same expressions take on a far more sinister significance. The legendary Christopher Lee however, in his role as Max’s father (the only other resident in Juliet’s building), is woefully underused.
Director Antti Jokinen makes surprisingly little use of music-video style visual distraction, but rather offers up some rather Hitchcockian framing and scene construction including a few impressive plays with shadow. The sets are convincing and well used, especially once we move into Max’s crumbling pathways within the apartment’s walls. So, visually, there’s not much to complain about at all, but The Resident makes a few crucial mistakes when it comes to narrative. At a very early stage, the audience is treated to the revelation that Max is the one prowling around Juliet – which makes earlier attempts at framing another suspect as a red herring utterly useless – and does so by jumping back through the timeline to show specific events from his point of view. In doing so, the whole affair becomes an exercise in repetition with many of the sequences that are replayed having previously played out in such a way that it was quite obvious Max was up to something. Jokinen seems to believe otherwise, as the film insists that re-watching everything from the psycho’s viewpoint is providing eye-opening shocks. All except one squirm-inducing sequence which, in itself, lacks originality (hell, it’s basically an urban legend) just feels like preaching to a choir who have read the same sermon three thousand times this week.
With the lead character already far behind the audience in terms of what’s been going on, it’s just a case of us counting the minutes until the obvious discovery of what she’s been going through and the final fight with her pursuer. It feels less like settling into a surprising new property than plonking down for your first day of Psychological Thriller 101. It’s worth stressing that The Resident is still a perfectly OK flick, and the cast are more than capable of keeping your attention throughout, but you could read a brief synopsis and almost play the whole thing out in your sleep. Actually, that would probably include much more imagination than this terminally conventional piece manages to display.
Icon’s Blu-ray release of the film includes an absolutely spot on high definition transfer, with excellent colour reproduction, solid blacks and a good amount of fine detail. Bear witness to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s indomitable stubble! Audio reproduction is similarly pleasing, adding weight to the occasional stinger and plenty of uneasy creaking and groaning enveloping the room.
On the special features front, we have an audio commentary by director Jokinen which is an occasionally interesting if somewhat too formal and technical affair. There’s a good few anecdotes (listen out for his opinion on shooting in New York around the general public), but it’s by no means an essential listen. The trailer rounds off the disc.
Listed on the promo material is also the inclusion of an alternate ending (which Jokinen does mention in the commentary) and deleted scenes, but these were nowhere to be found on the review disc. As of this writing, it has not been confirmed if they are actually present on the retail edition.
2 1/2out of 5
2 out of 5
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