Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Two legendary horror movie icons - studio Hammer Films and actor Christopher Lee - are reunited in the latest offering from the revived production company, THE RESIDENT (2010). Unfortunately, Lee's role is not much more than an extended cameo, but it's still cool that the current incarnation of Hammer is able to create this link to its past within the context of a thoroughly contemporary thriller.

A young surgeon named Juliet (Academy Award-winner Hillary Swank) is looking for a new place to live after breaking up with her unfaithful boyfriend. What she finds is a surprisingly affordable, spacious Brooklyn studio apartment with a handsome, helpful landlord named Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, WATCHMEN, THE LOSERS). Sure, his grandfather, who also lives in the building, is a creepy Christopher Lee, but the place is too nice to pass up. Unfortunately, Max is a rather twisted voyeur who has the place rigged with two-way mirrors, secret doors and peepholes; a slick sicko who soon develops a frightening obsession with his sexy tenant.

THE RESIDENT is a nicely mounted, well-acted, and beautifully shot film, that is, unfortunately, utterly predictable and oddly suspenseless. The script, by Robert Orr and Finnish director Antti Jokinen, offers nothing we haven't seen before and not a single fresh or interesting twist. The dialogue isn't bad, and the cast makes a great deal out of it, but as a thriller, THE RESIDENT is sadly short on thrills.

That said, it's not a waste of time. Not every movie needs to be groundbreaking, after all, and THE RESIDENT has a lot going for it. The cinematography by Guillermo Navarro (FROM DUSK 'TIL DAWN, HELLBOY, JACKIE BROWN, PAN'S LABYRINTH, et al) is gorgeous, with every 'scope frame exquisitely composed, and awash in rich, warm colors. The musical score by John Ottman (THE USUAL SUSPECTS, KISS KISS BANG BANG, X2, et al) is atmospheric and effective. Swank and Morgan are excellent in their somewhat underwritten roles, and even if he's only in the film for a few minutes, Lee's presence is formidable and welcome. And if Jokinen's direction isn't particularly suspenseful, neither is it boring. It moves along at a steady pace, and never really drags.

It's also not a pleasant movie, and that's a good thing, actually. THE RESIDENT never manages much in the way of outright scares, but it is genuinely disturbing. Max is a very twisted individual, and the fact that Morgan can play both the character's charming, sexy side and his sick, psychotic side so well is a tribute to the actor's talents. If the script hadn't been quite so ordinary, or had managed a clever twist or two, the whole film might have risen to match the performances of its leads; as it stands, though, it's just a very well-made time-killer.

Image Entertainment brings THE RESIDENT to Blu-Ray with a pristine, 1080p, 2.35:1 widescreen transfer and DTS-HD Master Audio. The disc looks and sounds outstanding. The only bonus feature, unfortunately, is the film's trailer. An equally bare-bones DVD edition is also available.

While THE RESIDENT doesn't reach the heights of the revived Hammer studio's previous film (LET ME IN), it does indicate a commitment to quality that I find encouraging. I also appreciate the effort to include Lee, and the pleasing link that creates between the studio's past and present. I do recommend at least giving it a rental - it may not be a great chiller, but it's at least as good - if not slightly better - than most of what's being offered in the genre these days.

BUY: The Resident [Blu-ray]

BUY: The Resident [DVD]