by Jason Coffman
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Despite its failure to draw big audiences to the box office, there’s no question that Let Me In was an auspicious return to the horror landscape for the Hammer Films name. Already, two more Hammer features are out: The Wake Wood (yet to be released in the States as of this writing) and The Resident. While The Wake Wood sounds fairly close to traditional Hammer horror— period setting, supernatural evil— The Resident takes a very different approach.
Hilary Swank plays Dr. Juliet Devereau, an ER doctor who is looking for a new apartment after catching her boyfriend Jack (Lee Pace) in bed with another woman. She stumbles upon a huge space with a great view in a building owned by the socially awkward but handsome Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his grandfather August (Christopher Lee). Juliet and Max are almost immediately drawn to each other, even as she attempts to reconcile her feelings about Jack. Soon after moving in, though, Juliet starts to notice odd sounds in the night and has trouble waking up for work in the morning. Clearly something is wrong with this “too good to be true” arrangement, something Juliet may have come to realize far too late.
The Resident has a decent small cast, and first-time director Antii Jokinen (along with cinematographer Guillermo Navarro) does a good job of creating unsettling atmosphere, but once the mystery of what is happening to Juliet is revealed— rather surprisingly, about thirty minutes into the film— there’s not much left to do but watch as Juliet has very creepy things done to her and then make some very bad decisions. That lack of mystery drains the film of any momentum it had built up to that point, and Juliet’s “typical horror film victim” behavior once what is happening to her is made clear makes very little sense. The climactic chase scene at the end is particularly frustrating as Juliet seemingly ignores an obvious escape route to inexplicably draw out the ending even further.
While the first half-hour of the film seems to promise something much more intriguing, in the end The Resident is a sadly typical (if particularly well-photographed and acted) stalker horror film. It is great to see Christopher Lee in his small role, but his presence is really the only thing here that calls to mind anything about the Hammer horrors of the past. Here’s hoping The Wake Wood and the upcoming The Woman in Black are more a return to form and an indication of the direction the new Hammer Films will be taking from here on out.
Image Entertainment released The Resident on DVD and Blu-Ray on 29 March 2011.
Jason Coffman is a film writer living in Chicago. He writes reviews for Film Monthly and “The Crown International Files” for Criticplanet.org.
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