Featured Review For The Resident
There are two things that epitomise a Hammer film: a distinctively poignant visual style and a plot whose direction is deciphered within the first twenty minutes. In these two respects, The Resident is bona fide Hammer at its idiosyncratic best.
The Resident is presented as somewhat of a cautionary tale for women living alone, in which a newly single doctor, Juliet (Hilary Swank), moves to Brooklyn, New York, and against all feminine intuition, into a newly-renovated apartment that’s as too-good-to-be-true as its beguiling landlord (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Soon Juliet begins to develop the unnerving suspicion that she has an uninvited roommate, and the film quickly unravels into a seemingly endless tedium of contrived panty-sniffing, shadow-lurking, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan looking as uncomfortable in his role as one feels watching him. Christopher Lee makes his cameo as Morgan’s elderly grandfather, whose ambiguous relevance to the actual story is as quickly and uninterestingly dispelled as the hope that the film would be a worthy follow-up to last year’s Hammer success, Let Me In.
And the let-downs just keep coming.
While the film is set within New York – the veritable mise-en-scene of sex crimes and other miscellaneous degeneracy – the cityscape and the potential it holds for terror is dismissed for the confines of Juliet’s apartment and the cavernous passageways that surround it. In any other circumstance, this claustrophobic choice would do well in creating the straining and inescapable tension necessary for a plot which teeters upon the uncertain line between real malevolent presences versus unadulterated psychosis; but The Resident is none such story. Essentially, the film is nothing more than Swank and Morgan running in monotonous circles and hiding behind strategically-placed furniture. The prolonged cat-and-mouse chase through the labyrinthine corridors of the apartment building becomes so vexatious that is soon difficult to care about the end-result, just as long as it comes swiftly.
Swank does her damndest as the archetypal woman in terror, but with a generic script and a storyline of insufficient build-up and a lacking denouement, the film bears little relation to the trusted Hitchcockian-Hammer formula that successfully propelled the women-in-peril trope in productions like Paranoiac (1963) and Fear in the Night (1972). And although the visual aesthetics are expectedly and disturbingly evocative – the scenes are saturated in a continuous filigree of frightening shadows and unnerving, contrasting close-ups – this is not enough to piece together a brittle work of recycled pseudo plot-lines and fundamentally weak characters. Probably most tragic is the fact that Christopher Lee’s inimitable creep-factor is so underutilised, his token appearance likely having been written into the plot merely as a means of the ‘Hammer-product’ recognition.
The film is uninspired and interminably long, with a cast wasted on undeveloped writing. Ultimately, The Resident feels little more than the unimaginative ‘quota-quickie’, cobbled together to fill the gap in Hammer’s schedule until something worth an actual creative and original expenditure comes along.