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Movie Review: The Resident

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The Resident is the first Hammer film that Christopher Lee has starred in for 34 years, according to the press release. Well, to say that he stars in it is a bit of an exaggeration considering it is a glorified cameo. To give him star billing with the other two leads is downright misleading.

The reason that I started the review by talking about Christopher Lee is that I guarantee that’s why many people have been drawn to this film in the first place. I know that was true for me.

If you’re still here after hearing about the lessened role of Christopher Lee, allow me to take you on a tour of The Resident. The film is about a young doctor (Hilary Swank) who moves into a rather nice apartment owned by Max the landlord (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who was The Comedian in Watchmen) and his grandfather August (Lee). Rather predictably, things are not what they seem, but then you can learn what’s actually going on before seeing the movie just by reading many of the reviews you can find online. Long story short, Max is a stalker and has passageways that allow him to enter the apartment at will.

I felt the two lead roles were certainly interesting, but that Jeffrey Dean Morgan did the better job by far. He was cast very well, perhaps due to the role association I made earlier, and really made the disturbed stalker come to life. What I like is that he did it in stages, so that the stalking habit gets more and more oppressive and disturbing as time goes on (from looking but no touching to drugging her and touching her) and builds up tension – what will he do next?

As a media student, it’s nice when you can appreciate directorial touches in film. Some of the shots here are very familiar to even the most casual viewer of horror films, but they were directed by someone with real skill behind the camera (which, considering it was his first time directing a movie, was pretty impressive). The actual horror shots and the jump scares that you’re here for are executed very well. Predictable, but still done well. There is a scene about thirty minutes into the film where we see everything that has happened to Swank’s character up until that point from Max’s perspective. That scene managed to achieve the impressive feat of scaring me twice by showing the exact same event. It’s the anticipation that gets you.

Like many other horror films, it is very voyeuristic and sexualised. There are several shots where you suspect the director was standing behind the camera, filming the sex scenes with a great deal of personal interest invested in watching Hilary Swank get naked or engage in intercourse. Hell, many of these shots border on or seem like they are leading to tastefully done pornography (although I suspect that’s an oxymoron for some people).

One niggle that I did have was an issue with the home monitoring system that Swank (I forget her character’s name; it’s not important anyway) eventually gets around to installing. Why does this system not automatically send images that are worrying to the police or the company themselves? It’s left to Swank herself to watch the footage back, and of course she neglects to do so at a point where she could actually do anything about the events.

I would suggest this as a good movie to watch alone at night to feel the full effect of the horror, as the whole point is to create paranoia about whether or not you’re ever truly alone in the house. It’s not as effective during the daytime with sunlight streaming through the window, but it still managed to create a tense atmosphere and scared me, which I feel says something about the quality of the film and allows me to recommend it.  

The Resident is out on DVD and Blu-Ray July 4th.

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About Scott Varnham