Welcome witches and warlocks,
Today I will be reviewing the period horror feature THE LODGERS (2017) by director Brian O’Malley. To best describe the story, I will use my own plot summary:
"In 1920’s Ireland, an orphaned pair of twins lives out a fearful existence in their decrepit manor house where they must follow three rules or face dire consequences."
Two things: any movie that starts with a song that sounds like a lullaby is instantly creepy and, by the same token, has a lot of expectations to fulfill. This film begins in the aforementioned fashion which meant I was on board right from the opening moments, plus it was a period piece so it kept me firmly on the hook throughout. That being said, did it follow through on the promise shown in the opening?
From an actual scares standpoint, this was modeled after the creaking gothic horror of yesteryear. I appreciated that it did not resort to cheap jump scares, but instead built up the sort of uncomfortable atmosphere one would expect from the gothic classics. While there might have been only a few moments that could get a jump from people, the creepy tone embraced by the overall plotting is sure to get under viewers’ skin.
The plot is one of the areas where this piece really shines as it effectively marries together many familiar tropes of the genre. Decaying manor house? Check! Dark family secrets? Check! Forbidden love? Check! It managed to tick even more boxes than these while giving each trope enough time to make an impact. What is more, it managed to weave many of these themes in with a certain subtlety so that we never feel bashed over the head with exposition. To see such a tricky balancing act executed so well was a joy to this gothic horror loving fan.
What also proved a real highlight was the crumbling mansion. The way the house looked it was hard not to find it immediately imposing and wonder what could possibly keep two people living in such squalor. The abode was given character just in two simple ways; one was how decrepit it looked while the other was the imposing door in the floor. It is obvious very early on that this house hides some secrets, an idea which is only further backed up by the slow reveal of information.
The cast do an admirable job of portraying their characters whether they be playing the larger or smaller roles. I will grant, most of the parts will be familiar to those who have seen or read some gothic horror so there were very few surprises. The one neat trick they managed to pull off was creating such a strong female role in Rachel during a time period when women were not looked upon too kindly. To be honest, the genre itself is often more favorable to the female sex, but this picture went above and beyond in creating a great role for Charlotte Vega to play.
Before I wrap up this review, I feel a brief mention needs to be given to the score of the feature. This film had one of those soundtracks that I nicely backed up the events, but was not filled with any real memorable tunes (apart from the aforementioned nursery rhyme). I enjoyed that the music could deftly swing between the more lovelorn moments into a haunted melody; even if I cannot recall much of what I heard. Since there are many different, seemingly disparate tropes playing out on the screen, it was good that they had a score this dynamic to match the action.
All in all, fans of gothic horror will find this a worthy entry into the genre. The acting was nicely on point and the female lead was one of the stronger characters within this type of horror. Fans of movies like Crimson Peak (2015) or Flowers in the Attic (1987) are sure to find themselves at home in this picture.
The Creeping Craig
THE LODGERS will arrive in select theaters and VOD on February 23rd.