Cinepocalypse 2017: The Lodgers (2017 - dir. Brian O'Malley)
REVIEW BY JIM LACZKOWSKI (VOICES AND VISIONS)
1920, rural Ireland. Anglo Irish twins Rachel and Edward share a strange existence in their crumbling family estate. Each night, the property becomes the domain of a sinister presence which enforces three rules upon the twins: they must be in bed by midnight; they may not permit an outsider past the threshold; if one attempts to escape, the life of the other is placed in jeopardy. When troubled war veteran Sean returns to the nearby village, he is immediately drawn to the mysterious Rachel, who in turn begins to break the rules set out by the mystery inhabitants. Some films are about mood, and less about story beats or a linear progression. And if you’re not in the right mood for a story that is more about atmosphere and dread, you will easily find yourself unengaged.
THE LODGERS creeped into me slowly, the kind of slow burn that is less about the ultimate payoff and more about the subtleties at play. One can easily see this as another exercise in allegory, where the protagonists begin to discover lust in ways that some may be considered unorthodox. Then the process of whether who gets to survive this transition comes into play, including outside disturbances in all shapes and forms. From alcoholic rapists to the alcoholic estate manager, all of whom have a predilection for this girl as she is becoming a woman. “You need to marry,” one of them says, as she scoffs at the thought. If this film had ended one way that I feared it would, I might’ve thought less, but as it stands, this is one of the year’s most striking and chilling experiences.Whether it’s just fortunate (or unfortunate) timing, seeing lead protagonist Rachel (played by the luminous Charlotte Vega) being hunted down by sex offenders was really upsetting, which added a whole other layer of creepiness to the underlying pursuit of control from the male perspective.
I would say that even THE WITCH does a better job of creating a visceral Gothic horror vibe with some interesting undertones of potential unwanted thoughts between brother and sister. But THE LODGERS is not too far behind when it comes to being visually stunning, enveloping and all-around haunting. The two leads here are sensational, one imbuing innocence molting its layers, the other being a victim of agoraphobic psychopathy. The knight in wooden armor (Sean) does little to impress and comes across as the least memorable, pretty much playing the pretty boy that just wants to save the damsel. What carries THE LODGERS is its inventive imagery, heartbreaking portrayals of shattered purity, and a true sense of confidence behind the camera from O’Malley. This Gothic ghost story is familiar in tone and execution, but it capitalizes on the setting with moody blue-grey lighting and gliding camerawork, as well as intoxicating sound design and a score that includes a creepy music box lullaby that might find its way into your head before you fall asleep.