The Resident (Blu-ray)
As movie and horror aficionados know, the name Hammer before a movie used to mean something. From the 1950s through the 70s, “Hammer horror” became its own genre unto itself, a lurid and exciting stew of classic monster movies (Dracula, Frankenstein, etc.), surprisingly high-octane casts (often featuring great British thespians Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee), and modern-day sexuality and graphic violence – all served up in vivid, eye-popping Technicolor. The weird mix of serious British acting and literary aspirations with bloody low-budget horror caused a minor revolution in filmmaking and launched the careers of many of the big names I grew up with.
Hammer went out of business in the 1980s, but the name and the library have recently been repurchased by a group of investors who want to get back in the business of classic horror. Unfortunately, judging from their inaugural effort THE RESIDENT, they have a ways to go to recapture the magic.
THE RESIDENT actually gets off to a reasonably interesting start. Dr. Juliet Devereau (Hilary Swank), an accomplished ER physician in Manhattan, is in the market for a new apartment after a messy breakup. She finds a place in Brooklyn that’s too good of a deal to beat: $3800 a month, high ceilings, fancy fixtures, a great view of the bridge…the problem, explains her charming landlord Max (WATCHMEN’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is the F train tunnel running directly under the building, causing the apartment to buck and rattle at night when the trains run. Of course, the creepy old man across the hallway, Max’s grandfather August (Christopher Lee) probably doesn’t help either.
These early, innocuous scenes are actually pretty winning. Swank and Morgan, both accomplished actors, have an easy chemistry and are believable as intelligent, urbane adults who make a connection in the big lonely city. And Christopher Lee, a world treasure of an actor, lends an air of elegant menace to the picture just by existing. But as the process of settling into the apartment becomes more unsettling – as mysterious noises are heard at night and strange peepholes are seen being used by a mysterious man to spy on the attractive doctor as she bathes – we realize with mounting disappointment that the movie isn’t going to amount to much more than a retelling of SLIVER or SINGLE WHITE FEMALE.
The shame of THE RESIDENT is that it really does want to be a cut above the average erotic thriller. The cast can’t be faulted, and a gold star to whoever thought to include Christopher Lee; additionally, director Antti Jokinen has a keen visual eye and finds the same voluptuous, oversaturated colors – the brightest blood-reds, the deepest blues, the most crisp and velvety blacks – that characterized the great Hammer films of the 60s. Unfortunately, the ingredients just don’t come together in the right way; the script is trite just when it really needs to be surprising, and the disappointing climax seems to borrow from dopey modern-day slasher films instead of the sort of more elegant, old-fashioned fare that THE RESIDENT wants to be.
That said, while THE RESIDENT is a disappointment, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t appreciate how the filmmakers’ hearts seemed to be in the right place even if their script wasn’t really up to the job. I hold out hope that that can be corrected, and that maybe, just maybe, “Hammer horror” could again be synonymous with scares done in style.
Video: As I indicated above, the visuals are one of THE RESIDENT’s real strengths and the 1080p 2.35:1 Blu-Ray transfer helps sell the moody atmosphere, and after sitting through so many color-graded, over-processed teal-and-orange films it’s a real pleasure to see the strong, vivid hues this movie uses on a big rich HDTV.
Audio: The other component – possibly the main component – of atmospheric horror is sound, and the 5.1 Dolby DTS mix serves the film well. The suspicious creaks and groans of the apartment make good use of the various surround channels, while the rumble of the F train beneath the building made my bass, and my chair, rumble in pleasing sympathy.
Trailer: the sole feature on this Blu-Ray is the film’s trailer presented in HD.