DIR: Brian O’Malley • WRI: David Turpin • PRO: Julianne Forde, Ruth Treacy • DOP: Richard Kendrick • ED: Tony Kearns • MUS: Kevin Murphy, Stephen Shannon, David Turpin • DES: Michael Corenblith • CAST: Charlotte Vega, David Bradley, Bill Milner
The Lodgers is a film to laud on concept not execution. It’s an effort to give the Irish literary Gothicism of Bram Stoker and Sheridan Le Fanu its long overdue chance to spook on the big screen. Still, while the movie certainly conjures enough atmosphere to be in line with a ‘Tales of Mystery and the Supernatural’ paperback, it’s less successful in character and story.
Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) are Anglo-Irish twins living in a debilitated mansion in 1920’s rural Ireland. The house exudes a strange curse over them: they must be in bed by midnight; they may not permit an outsider past the threshold; if one attempts to escape, the life of the other is placed in jeopardy. The return of Irish WWI soldier, Sean (Eugene Simon), may lead Rachel to break these rules. Falling in love, the two plan an escape from the village. However, the increasingly demented Edward and the spirits of the house have other ideas.
Opening with the virginial white gowned Rachel fleeing in terror through the woods, director Brian O’Malley sets the tone well early. He uses the rugged nature of the Irish countryside to his advantage, crafting a Gothic landscape that feels tangible. With its small villages, crumbling Victorian mansions, fog filled forests – the film looks both authentic and fantastical. O’Malley also stages a handful of eye-catching scenes, most involving Sean’s missing leg – one a terrifically OTT phallic metaphor, the other a creepily uncanny dream sequence.
Yet, while the atmosphere seems like it was agonised over, the script by David Turpin less so. It has its moments – the anachronistic dialogue works, Sean fighting in WWI establishes him as someone heroic who gets caught in other people’s causes like Sarah’s. However, there is a constant sense that the film could do more to link its Gothicism with its post-1916 Ireland setting. For instance, no one comments on the Protestant landowner Sarah becoming romantically involved with the Catholic village-boy Sean.
No character has any depth. Rachel, Edward and Simon never feel like anything other than the damsel, the creep and the hero. This may not be a big problem with charismatic performers (see Crimson Peak). Yet, the lead three actors in The Lodgers are only serviceable, struggling to inject personality into their roles.
Meanwhile, The Lodgers’ 92-minute running time leaves the film feeling truncated. The moments of terror happen so fast and suddenly, there is never much of a chance for the movie to build any sustained dread. It also doesn’t give its well-chosen supporting cast comprising of Deirdre O’Kane, David Bradley and an excellent Moe Dunford (as Sean’s bully, he brings a sizable amount of menace to such a small role) much time to shine.
Overall, The Lodgers is a mixed bag. It’s too atmospheric and attractive to call a missed opportunity, yet too slight and light on scares to leave much of an impression. For fans of the gothic, it will satisfy their cravings. At least, until Lenny Abrahamson’s The Little Stranger comes out later in the year.
15A (See IFCO for details)
The Lodgers is released 7th March 2018