The Lodgers

1920, rural Ireland. Anglo Irish twins Rachel and Edward share a strange existence in their crumbling family estate. Each night, the property becomes the domain of a sinister presence (The Lodgers) which enforces three rules upon the twins: they must be in bed by midnight; they may not permit an outsider past the threshold; if one attempts to escape, the life of the other is placed in jeopardy. When troubled war veteran Sean returns to the nearby village, he is immediately drawn to the mysterious Rachel, who in turn begins to break the rules set out by The Lodgers. The consequences pull Rachel into a deadly confrontation with her brother – and with the curse that haunts them.

In the new horror film, The Lodgers, we have all of the elements of a beautifully produced gothic horror tale, yet something is not gelling as it should. Hidden away in a crumbling mansion in the Irish countryside are twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner). The two are prisoners of a lonesome existence as a ghostly curse not only keeps them from inviting anyone into the home but every night at the stroke of midnight, the adult orphans must be locked safely in their rooms to avoid encountering the ghosts that bubble of from the subterranean water table to roam the halls.

“…immediately drawn to the mysterious Rachel, who in turn begins to break the rules...”

While her brother is reluctantly going through the motions, accepting his fate of being prisoner to a ghastly inheritance, Rachel has dreams outside of the mansion walls. Spending quiet moments alone on the shore of the nearby pond, she is haunted by the aquatic nasties, yet she is somehow able to block them out with enough effort. Her wanderings lead her afoul of the nearby townspeople, who ridicule this reclusive waif, but she does catch the eye of wounded soldier Sean (Eugene Simon). The two begin a friendship that seems harmless at first. That is until the timely ghosts, that invade Rachel’s mansion, begin breaking the rules as well.

As stated at the outset, The Lodgers is a lovely film to look at. Filmed on location in one of Ireland’s most haunted homes, Loftus Hall, the production team makes no waste if the foreboding expanse. Long, loving shots of the walls inside and the beautifully aged exterior capture images you can practically feel. The costuming, hair and makeup for this period piece also get high marks and give us lots to see. Still…

As the film pushed through scene after scene of measured moments and we are given little to piece together. We know there is something hinky happening but we never get enough information to really understand it. Edward has an on again, off again relationship with a pet bird, eels appear in bathtubs, faceless figures float above ponds and wander halls, but what the hell is going on? Seriously?

“We really do get a visual feast as well as an aural one…”

Director Brian O’Malley does an adequate job helming this ambiguous mood piece. It is David Turpin’s script that spends too much time wallowing in mood and atmosphere. What makes other far better stories work is that we are offered parallel lines of truth to decipher. Here Turpin decided to dispense with the mind games and, instead deliver scene after scene of confounding, meaningless, imagery. Yes, everything pays off in the final act but we were never given the chance to play along. Turpin does a far better job with the melodic score as the film’s composer, so, there’s that.

The Lodgers, for all of its splendor that can’t seem to rise above the surface references to far more effective pieces like The Others, or The Orphanage. We really do get a visual feast as well as an aural one. It’s just that this movie wasn’t original enough to make me forget what influenced it.

The Lodgers (2017) Directed by Brian O’Malley. Written by David Turpin.   Starring Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner, and Eugene Simon.

The Lodgers is worth Matinee (**).

Norm’s Rating System: Full Price (****), Matinee (***), VOD (**), Don’t Bother (*)

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