First things first: The Lodgers isn’t your thirteen in a dozen horror flick. If that’s what you’re looking for, just stop reading this spoiler-free review right now, because this film won’t make you happy.
Set in rural Ireland in 1920, The Lodgers revolves around Anglo-Irish twins Rachel (played by the beautiful Charlotte Vega) and Edward (slimily and uncomfortably portrayed by Bill Milner) who share a strange existence in their crumbling family estate. Each night, the property becomes the domain of sinister presences, which enforces three rules upon the twins: be in bed by midnight; don’t allow strangers within the property; never try to escape.
Directed by Brian O’Malley, whose prior directorial effort was Let Us Prey (a movie that didn’t make my top 10 in 2014 solely because that was the best year for horror film in ages), takes a simple and tiresome plot and turns it into something rather original and unconventional.
By doing so, the Irish director opens up the secluded world of The Lodgers to other characters that help developing the twins’ characters, all the while denying the access to any kind of exposition.
When troubled war veteran Sean (Eugene Simon) returns to the village the mansion, he is immediately drawn to the mysterious Rachel, who in turn begins to break the rules set out by the entities – shall we call them The Lodgers? The consequences pull Rachel, Edward and everybody else involved into deadly danger…
Remember when I said that this is not a film for everyone? Well, that’s because – to put it simple – if you watch horror movies looking for cheap tricks, scary bits and familiar tropes, this movie would likely disappoint you. Actually, you might even consider it extremely boring!
On the contrary, similarly to Sean, I was drawn to the charisma of Rachel and Edward, and I was constantly riveted by the cinematography and production design of The Lodgers: in a way, this gothic drama with a few horror bits reminded me of A Cure for Wellness, albeit not as inventive as Gore Verbinski’s film in terms of camera-work.
Besides the great acting, The Lodgers benefits from spot on locations and the clever use of desaturated colours which deliver a Valierie and Her Week of Wonders (1970) type of vibe.
Furthermore, this is a very competently directed film, perfectly structured into three acts: during the first one nothing really happens and I must praise the movie for that, since it gives the audience time to care for the characters and get immersed into the atmospheric story. The second act, albeit a bit uneventful, sets up tension and uneasiness. Finally, during the third act, shit hits the fan and the true horror is introduced sharply, alongside two tiny twists that only improve the story and the overall cinematic experience.
Yet, I was extremely delighted to see that, even when the action kicks off, The Lodgers doesn’t lose its artistic feel. Quite the opposite: the horror scenes are enhanced by a great visual approach that makes every sequence look like a painting.
Although this film came out of the blue – as in, I didn’t have any idea The Lodgers would have been out on the 23rd of February – I’m truly happy O’Malley made another great gothic tale and I was enthralled throughout the entire runtime of 90 minutes.
Nevertheless, I can’t really say I liked this movie as much as Let Us Prey. One of my complaints with The Lodgers is that its runtime feels way longer than it actually is, which is not a problem for me upon first viewing, but it might affect the rewatchability of this motion picture.
Also, I wished the film was more unapologetic, as in showing more brutality and being rougher… because this is a surreal, supernatural drama with only a few, sparse hints of blood and violence. For example, I really hoped for a grand finale along the line of We Are Still Here (2014) and The House of the Devil (2009), movies that have the same structure as The Lodgers but end up with a more climactic ending.
Ultimately, The Lodgers is a solid period piece seasoned with horror elements and driven by visually stunning imagery. I’d strongly recommend it if what you read sounds like your cup of tea, though, otherwise you probably won’t like it as much as I did.
The Lodgers 8/10
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My review is also available on IMDb – The Lodgers