The Movie Waffler New Release Review - THE LODGERS | The Movie Waffler

New Release Review - THE LODGERS

the lodgers film review
In 1920s Ireland, a pair of twins live in the haunted home of their deceased parents.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Brian O'Malley

Starring: Charlotte Vega, Eugene Simon, David Bradley, Moe Dunford, Bill Milner, Deirdre O'Kane

the lodgers film poster

There's a growing sub-genre of supernatural movies set against a backdrop of violent political conflict. Guillermo del Toro has explored the idea twice, setting both The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth during the Spanish Civil War; Alejandro Amenábar set The Others in the immediate aftermath of WWII; the Iran-Iraq war provided the backdrop for Babak Anvari's Under the Shadow; and last year's Vietnamese gothic horror The Housemaid played out during that country's 1953 revolt against its colonial French occupiers.

The trend continues with Irish director Brian O'Malley's The Lodgers, a ghost story whose narrative plays out during Ireland's war for independence from Britain in the early 1920s. Compared to the movies mentioned above, which successfully integrated their historical and political milieus into their main narratives, The Lodgers' wartime setting feels a little like set dressing, barely explored and likely to be missed completely by any viewers unfamiliar with Irish history.

the lodgers film

One of the legacies of Ireland's colonial past is the abundance of country estates left behind when their British upper class occupants returned to the UK following Irish independence. They've proven a huge tourism draw over the decades, but they've rarely been exploited as locations for gothic horror, as is the case with Loftus Hall, the crumbling Wexford mansion that provides the moody setting for O'Malley's film, and which local legend claims is itself haunted by the ghost of a young woman.

Said building is occupied here by English twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner), whose parents have passed away at some point in the past. A mysterious, malevolent presence haunts their home, subjecting them to three rules - they must be in bed by midnight; they can't invite an outsider into the house; and if one attempts to flee the estate, the other's life will be taken. Having just turned 18, there's much talk between Rachel and Edward regarding the fulfilment of a particular demand of the haunting presence, and there are hints of an incestuous bond between the pair.

Things get complicated for Rachel when, during a visit to the local village, she encounters Sean (Eugene Simon), a handsome young WWI veteran now equipped with a wooden leg. Sean pursues Rachel onto the estate, threatening to break the rules she lives under and place everyone in danger.

the lodgers film

Having kicked off in the late '90s with a slew of Japanese shockers, and reaching its commercial peak with the Hollywood productions of Blumhouse and James Wan,  the modern ghost story has been prevalent in cinema for two decades now, and despite the various attempts of filmmakers to deliver a new take through various historical and international settings, it's a sub-genre that's felt like it's passed its sell-by date for some time. Aside from its Irish setting, The Lodgers doesn't offer much in the way of originality, and anyone familiar with gothic horror will easily predict where its narrative is headed, though for some that may provide a comforting thrill.

The main strength of O'Malley's film is its Loftus Hall location. With rain dripping from the floor to the ceiling (the explanation for which delivers the film's climactic and genuinely innovative set-piece), it resembles the set of an Andrei Tarkovsky film, and cinematographer Richard Kendrick makes effective use of the shadows and light cast in its various nooks and crannies.

the lodgers film

Relative newcomer Vega delivers a performance that elevates the crude dialogue she and the rest of the film's cast are saddled with, and her somewhat ethereal and timeless appearance is ideally suited to the gothic surrounds. Elsewhere however, The Lodgers suffers from some less than convincing performances. Particularly miscast is Simon, a young British actor whose very modern prettiness jars with the 1920s celtic war veteran he's playing here, and there are scenes in which he appears genuinely uncomfortable with the expository lines he's asked to deliver.

For hardcore devotees of gothic horror, The Lodgers' effectively gloomy aesthetic, period setting, and Vega's tortured, romantically doomed heroine may prove enough of a surface diversion, but for more general horror fans, O'Malley's film fails to bring enough originality to an increasingly crowded genre table.

The Lodgers is in Irish cinemas March 9th.