Monday, 28 March 2011

Dead Residents

The Resident 2011
Directed by Antti Jokinen
Still playing at UK cinemas.

Beware... I might just Hammer home those spoilers on this one.

I was really keeping my fingers crossed that I’d have a good time with The Resident because it’s Hammer’s second theatrical release after their rebirth and... well I really wasn’t as impressed as I'd hoped I’d be by their first “new era” movie. Let Me In, their vibrant but ultimately dumbed down adaptation of Let The Right One In played more like an action-packed remake of the superior Swedish movie version than as an attempt to address
any of the shortcomings that the Swedish version
had in adaptation.

And... for a while there... I really thought The Resident might just live up to my hopes.

For starters... it’s got a pretty good cast of actors... and they’re all giving great performances and acting their socks off. There’s Hilary Swank who, it must be said, I only ever saw in Brian De Palma's unsatisfying buy enjoyable adaptation of James Ellroy’s brilliant novel, The Black Dahlia... she was pretty convincing for the most part.

Then there’s Jeffrey Dean Morgan who I loved as both The Comedian in Zack Snyder’s brave attempt to bring Watchmen to life and as the leader of The Losers. He plays someone who seems to be a genuinely nice guy until... aw heck. They show you themselves what’s really going on very early in the movie... you can figure it out.

And then, the really fabulous piece of casting on this one is the legendary Christopher Lee, returning to the company (or at least a bought version of it) that made him a star name back in the 50s and the decades that followed. Now this really is a coup for Hammer, which is why it’s so disappointing to have to report that, although he does his usual, great acting job... his part is fairly slim in this one and his whole character comes across as criminally underused, it must be said. You get the feeling he’s been wasted in this part which, considering the debt Hammer also owe to him, is a bit of a blow for fans of the “old Hammer”.

Still, all three of these actors do a really good job and, on top of this, the film starts off really well with a brilliant and aggressively kinetic title sequence which, for a while at least, is matched by a similarly aggressive and fast paced editing style with exactly the kinds of “cut on movement” that people pre-Bond films used to decry as one of the ultimate editing no-nos.

The film tells the story of a nurse, played by Swank, who goes to live in a new apartment following her split up with her last boyfriend. Unfortunately, someone is spying on her... and as it turns out, drugging her and doing naughty things to her while she is knocked out... and the film comes a little unstuck very early on when the silhouette of the stalker in her apartment appears on screen and it’s fairly obvious from the actor’s build and posture that it’s the aforementioned Jeffrey Dean Wright who’s playing the psycho in this movie.

Even so, though, the whole atmosphere and setting up of the film is expertly handled for the first half an hour and everything is going great guns until... it gets to the point very quickly which I shall call The Resident’s “Vertigo” moment. That is to say...

You know that scene in Hitchcock’s Vertigo where Hitch has Kim Novak’s character deliberately give the game away to the audience as to her identity about twenty minutes before the end of the movie so that everyone knows what's going on? I believe there’s still a lot of debate to this day as to whether revealing everything so early on denied the movie a better twist ending and if, maybe, that revelation should have been held back until the last five minutes. Whether or not that was the right time to reveal that twist to tweak audience attention in the last reel of Vertigo or not is something I’m sure everyone who watches it has an opinion about... but whether it’s too early or not isn’t something anyone can really have an answer for.

One thing I do know, though, is that The Resident has a very similar Vertigo juncture where earlier scenes in the film are played out from a different character’s viewpoint but that, after about only a half an hour of the film has played out before it deliberately tips it’s hat to the audience... not that the audience had much trouble deducing who the identity of the “resident psycho” was after that earlier silhouette shot, of course.

I’m sure there must have ben some debate as to whether or not to allow that revelation that quickly in this movie but it doesn’t really matter ultimately because unfortunately, once this movie has tipped it’s hat... the film seems to transform into a fast-paced but curiously ineffective entry into the teenage slasher cycle... or to be more accurate in the case of The Resident, like an extraordinarily badly written teen slasher movie.

And after it does that, of course, there’s no going back with it. The film deteriorates quite rapidly into badly reconstituted stalk and slash cliché and ultimately you may well, like me, find yourself looking at your watch and trying to work out if you can survive the genuinely mind-numbing tedium that this movie has seen fit to turn into.

Oh, it’s not too bad. It probably does okay for the teenage market that this and most other modern movie behemoths are squarely aimed at... and 40 somethings like myself should probably know better than to go and see stuff like this in the first place, to be honest.

I think the real test of this movie can possibly be best summed up in a piece of “overheard” conversation from one talkative lager lout to his beer swilling mate as I was leaving at the end of the movie... “Blimey!” he said, as he walked down the corridor displaying up and coming events in the cinema’s future... “I could have written a better movie than that”. The sad thing about that statement, though, on giving a little further thought to the film in question is... I’d have to say the lad in the main foyer was right. He probably could write a better movie and therein lies one of the undeniable conclusions that this particular piece of popcorn fodder inadvertently pushes home to cinema goers everywhere, no doubt.. that a superb cast and a visually interesting director and cinematographer are, in themselves, not a convincing crutch to hide behind when the quality of the writing suffers. This movie would have gone down really great in the 80s but these days it just seems old fashioned and contextually an unsound base from which to start building your writing blocks on.

Not an essential viewing but certainly an exciting starting point to see if Hammer can learn how to play the game and revitalise what was once a great British studio and turn things around for themselves (given their previous track record for being a leader, of sorts, in British Horror through the decades). Their new movie Wake Wood gets a release on DVD today... lets see if they can do a little better with that one.

No comments:

Post a Comment