THE LODGERS (2017)
Directed by Brian O’Malley
Written by David Turpin
Starring Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner, Eugene Simon, Moe Dunford, David Bradley, Deirdre O’Kane, Roisin Murphy, Emmet Kelly
From the director of the impressive LET US PREY, Brian O’Malley’s THE LODGERS is an old school ghost story that ends up being a little effects heavy, but still quite powerful.
Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) are the sole survivors of a family of eccentric recluses who have lived in a castle for centuries in the Irish countryside. Living by a specific set of rules that come in the form of a nursery rhyme sung and written out over the opening credits, the twins are able to move around the grounds by day, but must be in their beds at midnight and are not allowed to answer the door when visitors call. As the two teenagers come of age, they are being pushed towards their destiny to have sex with one another and bare twins of their own, continuing their twisted ancestry. But Rachel has an independent spirit and on her infrequent visit to the nearby township to get supplies, she meets a young lad named Sean (GAME OF THRONES’ Eugene Simon) who she immediately strikes an interest in. Meanwhile, a lawyer (HARRY POTTER’s David Bradley) arrives to announce that the family’s funds have run out and they must leave the castle and Edward is growing more insane as he refuses to leave the house and fears anything but strict adherence to the rules. While Rachel’s feelings for Sean intensify, the ghosts of their ancestors become for and more restless.
Reminiscent of classic ghost stories like THE INNOCENTS and more modern Del Toro films like the effective THE DEVIL’S BACKBONE and the dud CRIMSON PEAK, THE LODGERS embraces old school haunted house tropes with squeaky doors, long dark hallways, and movement in the shadows. There are quite a few effective scares, most of them including foreground versus background scenarios and the usual creaks and slight movements we have seen a million times in haunted house films. Surprisingly though, these scenes work by establishing a creepy tone and environment despite redundancy with what has come before. The strong acting by the entire group also helps in making this familiar tale feel fresh. Vega and Milner are fantastic as the haunted children. I also loved seeing the crotchety David Bradley in a crucial role of the lawyer who throws a crowbar into the mix and while Eugene Simon is a bit of a blank slate as Rachel’s love interest, he plays his part decently. Bundling the acting power, gift of moody atmosphere, and some clever old school haunted house tropes is what makes THE LODGERS more effective than it should be.
The latter half of the film suffers from being overheavy in the effects department. Once the ghosts are seen, they aren’t that scary (they’re just floating, pale, naked people) and while the final sequence which has Rachel and Sean entering another realm is somewhat different than what we’ve seen before, the lack of real world grounding makes it all feel as if it were animated in a lab (because it was) and really does not compare to the real world spookiness that occurs in the first hour. There is also an odd narrative choice to add in a young, townie named Kay (Roisin Murphy) in the final moments which simply has no purpose, but she is given a lot of screentime in the last half hour inexplicably.
Despite these minor setbacks, THE LODGERS does a lot of old school hauntings very well. It’s literally dripping with atmosphere and the clever use of nursery rhymes and type on the screen was a fun way of establishing the rules early and clearly. All in all, THE LODGERS is one ghost story worth hunting for.