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February 22, 2018

The Lodgers


Brian O'Malley - 2017
Epic Pictures

Twin brother and sister live in a huge, crumbling mansion in Ireland. One could fit the tiny, nearby village inside that entire house. The film takes place in 1920, though it's only the presence of newly returned soldier that offers any hint of the 20th Century. The twins, Rachel and Edward, are bound by a curse that demands the two be in bed by midnight, not let any strangers into the house, and threatens the life of the remaining twin should one of them leave. Edward constantly stays indoors. Rachel leaves during the daytime for necessary shopping. The two attempt to avoid the consequences of the family trust emptied of funds. Their lives are disrupted by Rachel's attraction to Sean, the returning soldier, and Bermingham, the hatchet faced debt collector.

Brian O'Malley's second feature doesn't have the overwhelming sense of dread as in his terrific debut, Let Us Prey. The screenplay, by David Turpin, owes a bit to Poe's Fall of the House of Usher both for the relationship between the brother and sister, and the house seeming to have a life of its own. Water seeps through a trap door on the main floor. Voices emanate from the darkest corners. Edward is sometimes so pale that along with his never leaving the house, suggests a visible ghostly presence. The idea of an enclosed world is stressed not only by the dimly lit interiors, but even the pathway to the mansion, walled in by the lush green trees.

O'Malley uses mirror images, mostly in the beginning. Water drips upwards. There are hints that this is a haunted house, but hints aren't enough for the literal minded contemporary film viewers. Psychological horror doesn't cut it when the demand is for CGI ghosts. O'Malley's stated goal was to make a film akin to Jack Clayton's The Innocents. While his film falls short, it's better than the remake of The Haunting which took the suggested horror of Shirley Jackson into an unsubtle extravaganza of special effects.

Mirroring is also part of the narrative. Simultaneous to Edward and Rachel's virtual imprisonment by malevolent forces inside the house are the hostile villagers that threaten Rachel. That Sean returns from World War I with a prothetic leg is a reminder of some of the real horrors of the outside world.

O'Malley was particularly lucky in his casting. Charlotte Vega and Bill Milner look like they could actually pass for siblings. As the debt collector, David Bradley resembles the kind of miserly character from a Dickens novel. David Turpin also contributed to the music, most notably with a song co-written with Irish musician Cathey Davey, detailing the family curse.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at February 22, 2018 07:32 AM