The revitalised Hammer production studios got off to a decent start in October via their stake in Let Me In, Matt Reeves’ adaptation of Let The Right One In. The film didn’t do great business in the States, but it was critically acclaimed by most, even though it’s a note-for-note, if not beat-for-beat, remake of Tomas Alfredson’s film.
Hammer’s second shot at a commercial horror film to get them off the blocks in the 21st century is The Resident, a home invasion thriller starring two-time Oscar winner, Hilary Swank, ‘cult’ fan favourite, Jeffrey Dean Morgan and studio stalwart, Christopher Lee.
Swank plays Juliet, a doctor who has just had a messy break-up with her cheating boyfriend. She moves out, and finds difficulty in looking for an apartment in the vastness of New York. Luckily, she eventually finds one in a gorgeous period building, with nice neighbours and for a very low price.
Unfortunately, there’s usually a catch to these things, and in this case, Juliet becomes the object of her landlord’s sociopathic affections. She initially underestimates him, but ultimately rejects him as a possible rebound for fear of hurting his feelings. That’s when his sweet nature and kindness turns into something else.
There’s no mileage to be gotten from the fact that Juliet is being stalked by someone in her building, even though one of the only two people who live in the building with her is played by Christopher Lee. Cards are put on the table fairly early on by way of a flashback sequence half an hour into the film that replays all of the events we have seen thus far from another perspective.
In this way, the film blows its admittedly minor surprise far too early. There have been many cases where the major twist in a film is revealed pretty early on and still carried right on, even getting better. Duncan Jones’ Moon springs to mind. The fatal flaw of The Resident is that it really has nothing left after that flashback.
As the twist comes half an hour into a 90 minute movie, we then find ourselves listlessly drifting from one scene to the next, and on and on through occasionally risible, but supposedly creepy moments. This is a film in which Jeffrey Dean Morgan brushes his teeth and then jumps into Juliet’s bathtub to have a crafty Swank.
The sexualised content just seems off-putting, with a cloying desire to shock an audience that can’t particularly be fazed by it, especially not 50 years post-Psycho, or even more than 20 years post-Fatal Attraction. There’s an awful lot of Hilary Swank in the nip, which would obviously give it a nice big R rating in America, but the scares themselves feel PG-13.
That’s the conflict that kind of skews the film as a whole, really. Released in the week that Universal seemed to kill Guillermo del Toro’s At The Mountains Of Madness, this presents itself as a low-budget horror, punching above its weight as far as casting is concerned, and the only thing it’s missing is a PG-13.
Low-budget PG-13 thrillers seem to be ten a penny amongst studio horror films, as opposed to the big-budget R-rated horror del Toro was pitching. Here’s hoping that NuHammer eventually get back to the kind of horror for which they’re more renowned after this shaky sophomore effort. No high camp is required, but surely there’s a market for their brand of creature feature once again?
Granted, vampires are all the rage for their thoughts and feelings nowadays, and Danny Boyle is classing up Frankenstein at the National Theatre. But in a time of homogenised horror films, it would be good to see Hammer rediscovering its niche and making more enjoyable films than The Resident.
As it stands, The Resident is not outright awful. It’s just not much of anything, really, failing to create any ambience around its premise and underusing Christopher Lee. All of the characters are quite intensely unlikeable, to the point where you almost sympathise with the stalker, against Juliet.
So, inadvertently, it’s a film that seems to be asking the question: is stalking really so wrong? To which the answer is: yes. Yes, it is. And, unfortunately, so is this movie.
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