Recently, the Hammer Films production company has had somewhat of a revival with films like Beyond the Rave, Let Me In, Wake Wood and The Woman in Black all coming out since the millennium. Along with that, The Resident (featuring Hilary Swank – most famous for her sterling performances in Boys Don’t Cry and Million Dollar Baby – as well as Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the brilliant Christopher Lee – most famous for playing Count Dracula in the earlier years of Hammer, but is also known from The Lord of the Rings and Star Wars franchises) was released in 2011, receiving not too favourable reviews. Unfortunately, I largely agree that this film was severely lacking the quality that many other Hammer films have had. In fact, it didn’t even feel like it belonged under that ‘brand’ in the first place, as the storyline is vastly different to anything they’ve ever released before. Considering both Hilary Swank and Christopher Lee are immensely successful actors, it really did not do justice to their talent – especially as Christopher Lee had only a tiny amount of screen time (about four minutes. Pitiful)!
This film tells the story of a young woman, Juliet Devereau, who buys an apartment from a seemingly nice young man, although as time goes on it becomes apparent that his intentions are perhaps just a little sinister. It’s not exactly a new tale, and influences can be drawn from Single White Female, and even One Hour Photo (featuring Robin Williams as an obsessive photo developer), maybe there’s also a pinch of the classic film Fatal Attraction thrown in there too. It is important to note that none of these films are horror’s, per se, and so The Resident is more unique in the fact that it takes the story to a darker place than the previous ‘versions’. Although, saying this, the film does not actually manage to work very successfully as being scary, which definitely lowers its credibility as a bona fide horror.
The main problem here is that the plot is just so predictable and worn-out, that nothing seemed to be able to breathe some life into it. There were moments of suspense but the lack of ‘depth’ lead to the audience becoming bored pretty soon. The character of the landlord (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) started out as quite a delicate, endearing man but when the ‘twist’ is revealed about midway through the film, he resorts to the completely unrealistic and badly stereotyped ‘mad man’, which totally ruins any sense of realism that the film had accumulated. That transformation reduces the movie to a pretty ordinary thriller, using the old ‘cat-and-mouse’ technique – this is especially obvious during the final twenty minutes with an epic (or rather, drawn-out) fight scene between the two, which we had pretty much spent the entire film waiting for.
A lot of people have complained about the portrayal of ‘male’ and ‘female’ characters in this film, which I’m not entirely sure I am on board with. Yes, the female of this story is a naïve, confused young woman and the male is a voyeuristic pervert, but I’m fairly sure that the filmmaker’s did not assume this is the template for society in general. I do not believe that they are trying to make as grand a statement as that – they just wanted to make a creepy horror film. This seems to happen a lot, people reading too much into things and this can have a dangerously detrimental effect on the popularity of the film (even Fatal Attraction came under severe criticism by feminists who thought it offensive that the ‘business woman’, aka Glenn Close, was also portrayed as a complete loony!). As a rule of thumb, horror films aren’t all that complicated. In the immortal words of Randy from the Scream franchise, ‘that’s the beauty of it all! Simplicity! Besides, if it gets too complicated, you lose your target audience’.
So whilst The Resident is far from the worst film I’ve ever seen – in fact, ‘bad’ is too harsh really, ‘average’ is more suitable – it is one that is better saved for a rainy day rather than top of the ‘must watch’ list. My piece of advice before watching this film is to lower your expectations. Drastically. Hilary Swank seems to spend most of the time taking her clothes on and off throughout this movie, and though this might be a reason for some people to be curious enough to watch, it is such a shame that she wasn’t utilised properly. Overall, a disappointing watch.