The Resident Review
The Hammer resurgence continues its tentatively successful journey with a movie which witnesses the reunification of the famous film studio with Christopher Lee, features the Oscar winner Hillary Swank as both lead actress and executive producer, and is directed by Antti Jokinen, a man with plenty of experience in film, but taking the reins here in his first feature film directorial role. With such a diverse set of dynamics governing the construction of this film, you would perhaps expect something of a competent yet disjointed production, and this is exactly what The Resident serves up.
Christopher Lee parted company with Hammer 34 years ago, after featuring in To the Devil a Daughter, and having played Dracula – a character that remains, unfairly, synonymous with his name in the minds of many – for the last time in 1973’s The Satanic Rites of Dracula. Any unlikely suggestion that his renewed association with Hammer would see a reprisal of a role of any similarity is rapidly extinguished here. Lee instead features as the father in a rather dysfunctional father and son relationship, and whilst his part is somewhat peripheral, it’s still a welcome tribute to the man’s original affiliation with the classic British horror films that Hammer peddled in their heyday.
Indeed, The Resident couldn’t be much more detached from the gothic horror which Hammer produced so stylishly. Naturally, this isn’t a bad thing per se; the warmly remembered gothic horror from the studio ran its natural course, and whilst the company’s recent Wake Wood made some effort to recapture the magic, with partial success, any push to revive the original gothic horror would be misguided at best. Antti Jokinen’s film actually runs in a way which is more reminiscent of an early nineties psychological stalker thriller, and whilst Jokinen makes some moves to craft a picture which is unique and distinct, the film misses out on any opportunity to make a fresh impact befitting of the pedigree of acting talent and the historical name of the company releasing it.
Following the slickly constructed and artistic title sequence, the opening half hour proves a competently shot yet familiar experience. The unfolding plot follows a well trodden path. Juliet (Swank) is an emotionally wounded Doctor living in New York, trying to recover from her split with her husband following his philandering indiscretions, and Jokinen keenly sketches out her loneliness as she lives in a hotel room whilst searching for a new apartment. Her life takes a turn for the better as she receives a phone call about a vacant apartment, and as she pays the site a visit, she also finds herself attracted to the man who will become her landlord. The man in question is Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who is the grandson of the austere August (Christopher Lee). However, Juliet has difficulty settling at night as the bumps and creaks of the apartment rattle her nerves, bumps and creaks which we realise are due to an unidentified individual engaging in voyeuristic practices with Juliet as the target of their desire.
During this opening third, it’s difficult to see how the film is going to stretch out its moderate suspense and jumps for the next hour, and the mind braces itself for some routine tedium. However, Jokinen, who also co-wrote the script, executes a clever and surprising trick at this point; through a series of rapidly cut flashbacks and alternative perspectives, he reveals exactly who has been stalking Juliet, and the focus of the film takes a heavy shift, choosing to closely document and analyse the dynamics between Juliet and her stalker, which proves far more intriguing than the guesswork driven by the early sequences.
Jokinen avoids retreating to a one-dimensional approach to his characters, and he treats his creepy stalker with some sympathy; this is a man who is clearly tortured by his past, and he exhibits a range of emotions as his stalking behaviour develops. Yet other elements of the film’s execution deprive the end result of its potential impact. The dialogue between the characters feels rather stunted and quick fire, and consequently the developing relationships feel rushed, shallow, and artificial. The relationship between Juliet and her ex-husband in particular is unconvincing; whilst vulnerable, Juliet is an intelligent and motivated woman, and the manner in which her arrogant husband integrates into her life once again doesn’t have the appropriate sense of authenticity. We also fail to build a satisfying engagement with Swank’s Juliet, and despite her stalker’s obvious social deficiencies, we often, bizarrely, feel greater sympathy with his predicament than we do for her own. And when Jokinen’s film reaches its mildly exciting climax, it’s tinged with a sensation of familiarity, that this is something we’ve seen before, and there’s nothing especially new or intriguing to explore and enjoy.
On balance, though, it’s a competent film, and whilst it resorts to a certain degree of cliché and genre repetition, it provides sufficient tension to make a casual viewing worthwhile. It’s just a shame that Christopher Lee’s reappearance in a Hammer film should pass us by in relatively quiet and uneventful fashion.
Hammer release The Resident on a region B encoded Blu-ray disc. The movie is displayed in the original 2.35:1 aspect ratio, and since it’s a modern film on Blu-ray presented in a resolution of 1080p, the picture enjoys a high level of definition and excellent clarity. The MPEG-4 AVC codec seems to have done a good job. Colours are represented very well indeed, and the shots of New York are rich in colour, with primary colours such as the green of the grassed areas, or the reds of the buildings, displayed with larger than life vibrancy.
Stats fans may wish to know that the main file for the film is 23.2Gb in size, which constitutes a large section of the total 24.4Gb on the disc due to the relative dearth of extras.
There is a trailer on the disc for another project Hammer were involved in, which is the Let Me In remake of the Swedish original (Let The Right One In).
The menu system is attractive enough, and proves easily navigable.
English subtitles are provided for the hard of hearing. These are displayed in a clear white font, and are sensibly positioned at the foot of the screen inside the black bar.
The aural presentation on this Blu-ray is one of the most pleasing aspects. You can select either English 2.0 stereo, or English DTS HD Master Audio, and the latter soundtrack shows itself to be a very capable and engaging component of the film. Not only is the dialogue continually clear, but the staging of the sounds is impressive. The rear speakers reflect the sounds of the city well during the quieter times, and when the action is cranked up in and around the apartment, they play a pivotal role in providing a dynamic and absorbing sound experience which assists in the rattling of your nerves.
There are only two extras to speak of on this Blu-ray release. The first is the commentary with director Antti Jokinen. Whilst not being in possession of the most engaging narrative style out there, his comments prove a good compliment to the film, and it’s clear that he has spent a lot of care and attention on his development of the characters (he makes references to scenes he wanted to shoot, and behaviours he believes the characters to indulge in that aren’t captured in the movie). The commentary is worth a listen, but I can only feel that it would have been more engaging and lively had another individual – perhaps one of the characters - been present for Jokinen to discuss his topics with and share ideas and opinions.
The only other extra here is a trailer of the film itself, which, in line with the rest of this release, proves itself to be a routine affair and nothing more.
With such a strange set of dynamics underpinning this new release from Hammer, one might have been inclined to expect a chaotic and inconsistent movie, yet the contributing factors appear to have had something of a neutralising effect, as The Resident is a competent, mildly tense, and largely standard offering from Antti Jokinen (although the pace switch after the first third is warmly welcomed). Extras are in short supply, with the directorial commentary being the only offering of note, yet the transfer proves to be high quality, with an excellent surround soundtrack, and if you are keen to see Christopher Lee under the Hammer banner once again, here is your opportunity.