Most of my reviews and Blu-ray coverage will be housed on Deepest Dream, but I’ll be spotlighting flicks that are near and dear to my heart with this blog. The Lodgers hits theaters and digital today, and though it’s filled with relatively unknown actors, don’t let the pedigree fool you – this one’s a doozy. Gothic thriller/haunted mansion fans should eat this one up, and nearly 12 hours later I’m still buzzing from the experience.
Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) are close knit twins, but their bond lies in a generations old curse that haunts their family. Forced to live in a decaying, Irish mansion and adhere to stringent rules that’s spelled out in a creepy lullaby, these siblings may reside in a domicile with tons of square footage, but their existence is a suffocating one.
Edward, a recluse that will make most hermits (like myself) blush, is understandably scared of “the lodgers” who reside in the house but also is perversely drawn to their universe. He is too scared to venture into town for supplies, so Rachel serves as his eyes and ears to the outside world.
Rachel is the more independent minded of the two, longing to break free from the ties that bind and a tragic life that can only get bleaker. She finds a bit of social comfort in Sean (Game of Thrones’ Eugene Smith), a WWI vet who lost a leg during combat and is despised by the brutish men who loiter about the neighborhood. Sean is immediately transfixed by Rachel upon first glance, and even though her mysterious and closed off aura should ward off many a potential suitor, Sean is undeterred.
David Bradley (also a Game of Thrones vet) is the family lawyer who informs the twins that the family funds have been depleted, and the estate must be put up for sale. This haunted domicile, thanks to its less than benevolent spirits, and the dutiful servitude of Edward, will not go down sans a fight. Since strangers are not allowed in the mansion, any outsider who ventures into this world will probably regret his or her decision.
THE LODGERS is coming out TODAY in theaters in the United States and Canada!
— The Lodgers Movie (@TheLodgersMovie) February 23, 2018
Though it runs a refreshingly scant 92 minutes, director Brian O’Malley places a ton of narrative meat to the bone, and while much of the picture is a slow build, the eye-opening and refreshingly thrilling third act delivers the knockout punch (Get Out fans should also appreciate one of the film’s standout sequences). Viewers may complain that the several jump scares and methodical pacing drags down the storyline, but the character building, especially in relation to Rachel’s compelling journey, absolutely worked for me.
My only complaint, and it’s a minor gripe with good intentions, is that more scenes with Edward, especially regarding his inextricable connection to the house and his family, would have been welcome. Milner gives dimension to a role in what could be deemed as the narrative’s true antagonist, and his complex personality was one of The Lodgers’ many intriguing elements.
The star of the film is Charlotte Vega, an actress who, if more people and filmmakers catch The Lodgers, should see a dramatic career uptick. Coincidentally, she also starred in the short Danielle directed by Alejandro Amenabar, director of the haunted house classic The Others. Fluent in Spanish and English, Vega is primed for a breakout, and hopefully The Lodgers will set her on that path.
Vega is adept at handling romance, horror, and fierce determination as the film’s lead, and one of the great aspects behind the Gothic thriller genre is its ability to place women as the driving protagonists within a multi-layered environment. It’s a heady prospect balancing a ton of emotions in The Lodgers, and Vega, who’s more than just a pretty face, has a ton of dimension.
The Lodgers also showcases a director who is in full command with his material. Armed with considerably less money than Guillermo del Toro’s gorgeous yet flawed Crimson Peak, O’Malley gets a ton of production value from the movie. The mansion, which is actually a tourist spot, is a sight to behold, and O’Malley makes solid use of the property and the surrounding area to beautiful effect.
O’Malley, who collaborated with cinematographer Richard Kendrick, also knows how to compose an arresting visual frame. There’s one shot in the movie that will be embedded in my cinematic soul for years to come (hint – I’m guessing he’s a fan of Carol Reed’s The Third Man), and it will be interesting to see what films he has coming down the pike.
My cinematic wish is O’Malley pulls a Robert Altman (Nashville and if you crave something underrated try Kansas City) and brings back these cast of actors (Simon and Bradley also do excellent work in the flick) in future endeavors. All of these players were engaged in this tale, and it will be great if Taylor places them in an entirely different setting and genre.
Lastly, credit goes to screenwriter David Turpin for not making The Lodgers a by the numbers Gothic mansion redemption from one’s past story. There are some unexpected outcomes and twists that I never saw coming, and in relationship to the story, they feel absolutely organic (rather than a cinematic misdirection).
I loved The Lodgers, and though it opens in select theaters today, you’ll probably catch it on digital (it’s available for rent on iTunes). It may not have the A-list cast and crew you’ve come to expect, but really that’s one of the many thrills of The Lodgers (finding movie gems amidst a treasure trove of choices is always a plus).
It’s a tale that should haunt you long after the story ends, and maybe that’s a scary thing, but as long as you remember a house is not a home, you’ll be fine.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5
***Anderson Cowan and I will be taping the next episode of CinemAddicts next week (I will definitely be talking about my love for The Lodgers!). If you’re a cinephile who loves discussing movies (as well as collecting Blu-rays/DVDs), we do a weekly giveaway and monthly show. For more details, check out our Facebook page and take a listen to this month’s show below: