March 29, 2011
Hammer Films was a force to be reckoned with in the 1960’s and the 1970’s as the British studio was the go-to place for edgy and outrageous horror films many of which featured Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. Then came the 1980’s and their style of cinema were no longer in fashion as slasher films dominated the genre. The studio finally resurrected itself last year with the critically-acclaimed Let Me In (2010) with The Resident (2011) as its follow-up offering.
Juliet Dermer (Swank) is an attractive New York City emergency room doctor recently divorced from her husband (Pace). She moves into a newly renovated building after hitting it off with the ruggedly handsome owner Max (Morgan) and his gruff grandfather August (Lee). Like any old building it has a number of eccentricities – the subway that rumbles underneath, the pipes that rattle, the old school architecture, and the lack of other tenants except for August.
Director Antti Jokinen does a nice job of spending the first 30 minutes establishing all the major characters and their motivations. Hilary Swank elicits plenty of sympathy for her character and lets us get to know her so that we care about what happens later on. Soon, we see someone spying on her from within the walls of the building and you find yourself mentally going over possible suspects. Is it the seemingly too-nice-to-be-true owner or is it his slightly ominous grandfather? Or is it Juliet’s bitter ex-husband, or is it someone else entirely? From there, The Resident goes through the genre paces.
Both Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan acquit themselves just fine with the former wisely grounding her character in realism while the latter getting to sink his teeth into an obsessive stalker type. They try their best with the material that they’re given but unfortunately we’ve seen it all before and done better. Swank is decent enough as the plucky heroine but after this and The Reaping (2007) maybe she needs to give the horror genre a rest.
Those expecting some old school Hammer ambiance and atmosphere will be disappointed. Now, I understand that the filmmakers probably didn’t want to be stuck in the past but to completely cut themselves off from it (save the small role by Christopher Lee) is kind of disappointing. Instead of a straight-on horror film we get a by-the-numbers Hitchcockian thriller. The Resident is nicely shot as Jokinen employs all kinds of warm, inviting colors. He doesn’t try to get too fancy with the camerawork. It’s the predictable screenplay he’s co-written with Robert Orr and Erin Cressida Wilson that is the glaring weakness. After their auspicious comeback with Let Me In, The Resident feels like a step back for the legendary Hammer studio.
Just a trailer.