UK Release Date: 25th June 2018
Runtime: 90 minutes
Director: Brian O’Malley
Writer: David Turpin
Starring: Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner, Eugene Simon, David Bradley
Synopsis: Twin siblings living in rural Ireland appear to be trapped inside their homes by a mysterious force in the basement, but their finances are running out and they may soon have to venture out.
James Wan has made the haunted house movie feel fresh again with his Conjuring universe, utilising the conventions and tropes of the genre to great effect. On the other side of that coin is The Lodgers, from Irish director Brian O’Malley. It’s a very standard slice of genre fare that does absolutely nothing that’s innovative or interesting. Wisely, it mostly avoids the jolts and jump scares that have become the hallmark of the genre, but it forgets to replace them with anything else.
In its place is something that’s listless and uninspired. Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) are twins, just turning 18 as the story begins. They live alone in an enormous manor house in Ireland, following the death of both of their parents. A mysterious force living in the basement forces the inhabitants to live by three rules – be in bed by midnight, never let strangers into the house and never leave each other alone by attempting to escape. Rachel is getting increasingly itchy feet about their confinement, which is exacerbated by the arrival of army vet Sean (Eugene Simon). Meanwhile, solicitor Bermingham (David Bradley) is eager to visit to discuss the duo’s waning finances.
The Lodgers is a rather clumsy film that tries to mask its lack of entertaining set pieces with an unremitting sense of bleakness – visually and tonally. O’Malley’s film deals only in misery and darkness, but also telegraphs its darkest twist from almost the first few scenes, robbing the story of much of its potential tension. The one interesting idea – the monsters manifesting as water flowing upwards – is quickly drowned beneath generic noise and nonsense when the third act sends things loopy.
With that said, there’s plenty to enjoy when it comes to the performance side of things. Vega and Milner are both terrific in the leading roles, with Vega convincing as a woman coming to terms with isolation at the same time as a potent and irreversible sexual awakening. Milner, though, is the true star as a young man falling apart as a result of what we saw as a child. Any character that forms a creepy connection with a caged bird – a crowmance? – has to be the standout in a horror movie.
As enjoyably well-realised as these protagonists are, the story consistently lets them down. Much like the force rattling beneath the trapdoor in the film’s haunted house, there are interesting notions lurking within The Lodgers, fighting to escape. However, they are consistently suppressed by the film’s devotion to bleakness and cliché. At such a strong time for the haunted house sub-genre, movies simply have to do better than this.
Perhaps surprisingly for a release of this size, there’s a behind the scenes doc and a couple of deleted scenes.
Pop or Poop?
The field of haunted house horror movies is very crowded at the moment and, unfortunately, The Lodgers does nothing to stand out. Its performances are very solid and there are some ideas that could have worked with a surer hand on the tiller, but the result is something of a damp squib that fails to go bump in the night.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.
The Lodgers is available on DVD in the UK now courtesy of Thunderbird Releasing.