Writer-director Taylor Chien’s supernatural horror film, The Resort, thankfully avoids one of the most annoying cliches of the genre in recent memory: nobody, absolutely not a single character in the movie, is a freaking paranormal investigator. As minor as that may seem, it really does feel like a breath of fresh air to spend time with people who may be interested in ghosts and whatnot but don’t make it every fiber of their being. So, the question is, does the rest of the film work as well?
For her birthday, Lex’s (Bianca Hasse) boyfriend Chris (Brock O’Hurn) and friends Bree (Michelle Randolph) and Sam (Michael Vlamis) pool their money together and get her, and them, a vacation package to Hawaii. Lex is over the moon for this trip; doubly soon, when she learns they can go to this tiny island that is home to an abandoned resort supposedly haunted by the Half-Faced Girl. Of course, they cannot actually go to the property, but they can explore the lands around it, which will help with the horror novel she’s writing.
Of course, the movie would be very short if the foursome did not venture off the path and go to the decrepit locale. Once there, inexplicable happenings freak them out, such as a swarm of bats (birds?), blotting out the rising moon, but when they try to leave, the friends discover that some unseen force is preventing them from doing so. Even worse, this supernatural entity begins to kill them off one by one. Is it the Half-Faced Girl seeking vengeance? Or are their minds tricking them into believing the legend and scaring themselves to death?
“…when they try to leave, the friends discover that some unseen force is preventing them from doing so.”
Chien opens The Resort with two cold opens: the first involves some security guards at the resort getting killed. The second is the reveal to Lex about the trip, and then a smash cut to her being wheeled into a hospital. Only one of these is necessary, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure which it is. The guards are never mentioned again; it’s not like one of them was a family member to the main characters or anything like that. It does not work. But the sudden edit from the happy party to the traumatic consequences of their trip works wonderfully. Starting the horror tale then would have considerably made the story more engaging from the jump.
In the hospital, Lex is telling the detective on her case what happened, so occasionally, there are cutaways from the bulk of the action to her in the hospital. While this works reasonably well most of the time, there are moments where it stops the momentum and suspense that has been built up. Unfortunately, it takes a little bit for the film to fully grab the viewer’s attention again. On the flip side, it is able to so, especially as the plot crescendos into a frenzy of madness and violence.
The cast is only okay, but their chemistry sells the characters’ friendship well. Plus, once the eerie happenings begin, which is past the halfway point, each actor sells the scares as best as possible. Perhaps with a less tried-and-true approach to the kinds of frights available, they’d really shine. As in, they are fine, but no one really stands out.
The Resort takes a while to get to the good stuff, and the rhythm is interrupted every now and then. But the scares are effective, the cast does what they can with the material, and the cinematography is great. The island and the resort are captured well, and the strong reliance on setting does help smooth over some of the bumpier spots.
"…the scares are effective..."