Horror can present itself in many forms, especially when you are referring to what is found in the film genre. While the supernatural is always a rich source of things that go bump in the night I have always been in the camp that finds the most terrifying thing come not from the dark recesses of pure imagination bur rather those antagonists that could possible exist in the real world. Sure creatures like Freddie or Jason are very scary but there is little to worry about them on a stormy, lonely night alone. In contrast a serial killer or a severely mentally deranged human being is by nature of really existing comes off as much more frightening. This frequently comes up in discussions of the differences between American and Japanese horror. Here in the States the preference is often for the hard hitting visceral shock reaching an extreme with the genre variation of torture flicks best exemplified by the ‘Saw’ franchise. On the other hand Japanese horror tends to return to the roots of this type of movie depending on psychologically terrifying events. Infusing a horror film with aspects of the psychological thrillers requires greater care and exposition on the part of the film maker and more patience with the audience. Fortunately this type of film is still being made as evident by a film that just past my attention. ‘The Resident’ is a nicely made psychological horror movie that proves that filmmakers remain who can resist the temptation to crank out another slash and dash flicks featuring inbred cannibals a few genes short of a genome. This movie brings the audience back to a time when you have pay attention to the story and consider the character arcs. ‘The Resident’ has its share of missteps but in the final analysis the movie hold together as a source of entertainment propelling it above being just a casual popcorn flick. It does require more effort to watch than the usual blood fests but it is well worth it.
The creative mind behind this movie is Finnish filmmaker, Antti Jokinen, know predominately for his work writing and directing for Finnish television. For someone relatively new to feature length movies he did s remarkable job both creating the story and in his stylistic way of bringing it to life on the screen. There is a an appreciation for properly creating the right atmosphere to heighten the feeling of apprehension and impending doom that is highly reminiscent of the gothic horror films that I would see in the grind houses I frequent in my youth. This actually comes close to the fun derived from that experience. This should come as no surprise since many of the films we enjoyed so much back then often came from the Hammer studios. They lead the pack in ‘B’ horror flick with a certain distinction; many of these movies featured the early work of actors and directors that would continue on to be some of the best in the industry. One actor who helped to put Hammer studios on the map by staring in a sizeable number of their offerings was the inimitable Christopher Lee. Even though he is just shy of 90 and his screen time in this movie is limited he still has that certain flair, an air of menace. It just wouldn’t be a reboot of Hammer without him.
The title, ‘The Resident’ has a double meaning here both as a doctor in training and a person living in a place. In this instance the person fulfilling both definitions is Juliet Devereau (Hilary Swank). She is a young doctor going through a personal rough patch. She has just separated from her fiancé (Lee Pace) and is looking for a place of her own to live. She is currently living in hotels, not a suitable or financially feasible solution. Has anyone who has searched for an affordable apartment in New York City can tell you the number of apartments that do not have a comma in the rent are exceptionally scarce. When she comes across a spacious apartment in an upscale high rise building with a fantastic view and bargain rent it seems too good to be true. The audience suspects that there is indeed something more than meets the eye. The superintendent for the building, Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) has been caring for the place for a number of years, obsessively so. He demonstrates interest in Juliet which initially seems harmless. Max is knowledgeable about the arts, a good cook and charming. He even cares for his elderly grandfather, played by Lee. Juliet is tempted, a feeling reinforced by her best friend, Sydney (Aunjanue Ellis). As for Max, the ‘friend’ barrier is one he is anxious to cross. Jokinen has a firm, confident hand in his directorial style. Right on cue there are odd sounds or the fleeting glimpse of a shadow moving across just beyond the edge of sight. As Juliet slowly moves towards reconciliation with her ex Max becomes increasingly agitated and defensive of his perceived relationship with Juliet.
The script has flaws but it does avoid complete predictability by offering several possibilities for who is behind the creepy occurrences. It also doesn’t give much in the way of something for a stress of Swank’s ability to provide a challenge to this actress. She does well enough but ultimately hems her in to the part rather than letting her find the footing for a more memorable performance. In true classic Hammer the cinematography is excellent albeit under lit to as degree. The Blu-ray video does bring out more details than otherwise would be notable. The low lighting is by design and reinforces the gothic horror feel. The fashion in which the building and apartment is photographed harkens back to the old haunted mansion gothic horror combining the darkness of the space, a touch of romantic entanglement and the feel of undeserved misfortune. If you are tired of the horror flicks that offer little more than chasing horny teens then this is something that deserves a shot,