THE LODGERS (Ireland / 15A / 93 mins) Directed by Brian O’Malley. Starring Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner, Eugene Simon, David Bradley. THE PLOT: Ireland, 1920. With the War Of Independence not far away, tensions exist between the native Irish and the occupying British. Anglo-Irish twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) live a secluded life in their family mansion. Regarded with suspicion by the locals, they believe that they are cursed to live and follow in the footsteps of their incestuous parents. They live by strict rules set down by otherworldly guardians who come out at night and are known only as The Lodgers. They must be in bed by midnight, they must not escape the house, they must not admit a stranger. But a stranger comes calling in the form of returning soldier Sean (Eugene Simon), to whom Rachel is attracted… THE VERDICT: Director Brian O’Malley follows-up his eyecatching, full-on gorefest ‘Let Us Prey’ with something altogether different. The Lodgers is a moody, humourless ghost story about the legacy of evil and how it’s passed down through generations. David Turpin’s script sets up the twins early on, establishing their close relationship (though not too close) and a doom-laden prophecy that may or may not come true.
It’s a story that’s ripe for character development, but the film is disappointingly rather short on that. The twins are sketched in small brush strokes, lacking the greater depth that the story demands. Even less attention is paid to Sean and his budding romance with Rachel. It appears out of nowhere, as if they were lovers who hadn’t seen each other in years. A potentially fascinating backstory involving ‘The Lodgers’ and how evil trickles through is merely hinted at, left to suggestion when it needs to be brought to the fore.
Technically, it’s a well-made film. There’s good use of the gloomy corridors and chambers of Loftus Hall in Wexford, adding to the gothic atmosphere. The mournful music by Kevin Murphy, Stephen Shannon and David Turpin hints at impending doom. The performances are decent too. However, it’s hard to shake off a familiar feeling that it’s a clear case of style over substance. Too many psychological horror films rely on that old chestnut – oily, black eels to create a sense of unease (e.g. the under-rated ‘A Cure For Wellness’). O’Malley falls back on this cliché.
There are some eerie visual metaphors for drowning and ghostly figures, but there’s no real attempt to connect them to the story that is unfolding. Just another pale shape in the dark etc. If more attention had been paid to the story rather than the cinematography, then it could have been a more balanced affair. It’s also uncertain as to who this film is for. It’s not scary enough for horror fans, too eerie and artistic for mainstream audiences. ‘The Lodgers’ is something of a curio, which could be embraced by some viewers. Just not this one. RATING: 2 / 5 Review by Gareth O’Connor