Thursday, 17 February 2011

The Resident

The Resident 2011 is not so much horror as it is so much more thriller. However as a thriller the film’s premise is thinner than the paper it’s typed on. The horror genre is able to embolden a paper thin premise and cut up the audience with it. If a (supposedly) young beautiful girl solo rents an apartment in a horror film she will experience a haunting. When a young beautiful girl rents an apartment in a thriller she experiences stalking.

The premise is paper thin.

The horror-thriller subgenre is told in straight narrative sans the metaphysical (though this is not exclusive to the subgenre eg The Wicker Man 1973). The horror-thriller antagonist may be adorned in a mask to imbue menace and/or a hint of the demonic (The Strangers 2008). The plots mirror horror films in build up and reveal and include horror tropes (the apartment as battleground – Ils 2006).

The Supernatural is embedded in the horror film. Thus a lone female in an oversized apartment (haunted house) can be terrorised by a galaxy of demons (The Others 2001). The possibilities are infinite. If that same female is being stalked in a horror-thriller she is then at the mercy of one man/woman. That is a limitation. The human stalker confined to an apartment has nowhere to go but inward. Ergo the fallible stalker is best placed in the psychological thriller.

The psychological thriller works by dissecting the character’s fault lines. Horror works by overwhelming the protagonist. A fallible and limited antagonist in horror is underwhelming.

There is an argument that the reveal in Vertigo 1958 comes too early. It is an argument of opinion; the (early) reveal does not hurt the film. The reveal in The Resident comes too early. It extinguishes all intrigue. The audience is placed in front of the main character’s knowledge and she doesn’t catch up until the third act. The filmmakers have destroyed their own story and the viewer is left to watch the rest of the film in tedium.

The main character is played by two time Academy Award® winning actress Hillary Swank. In the 21st century Horror is mainstream which explains why she accepted this role however she does have form in the genre; The Reaping 2007 scores 8% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Hillary Swank is a talented actor but not a gifted one. Her status in the industry is evidence of the lack of depth in her peer group. If a producer wants to hire a white female over the age of 30 who doesn’t rely on sex appeal to retain audience interest then he has no other choice. Swank is competent. She can rise to the occasion above her station (Boys Don’t Cry 1999). What she can’t do is add to and enhance the roles she plays. She does not have that gift. It is the gift of the greats when they were her age – Meryl Streep (Out of Africa 1985), Susan Sarandon (Atlantic City 1980), Alfre Woodard (Passion Fish 1992), Marcia Gay Harden (Millers Crossing 1990).

A word on Swank’s sex appeal; in this film her body is fetishized much like Bridget Fonda in Single White Female 1992. Fonda is the type of actor-lite who fit the part. Swank is miscast in this role: it’s beneath her. The clue to her inclusion is the production company.

Hammer Films evokes memories of past British glory. Once upon a time the UK had a film industry. There were the Ealing comedies. There were the Hammer horror films. ‘Not in production since the 1980s’1 the Hammer will rise again as it is being ‘aggressively reinvigorated through new investment in the development and production of film…’ 1.

I laughed. I cried.

Hammer went out to get the best actress they could. Shame about the script. They also brought back an old stalwart. Christopher Lee was the poster boy for Hammer Horror at its height in the 70s.

An 88 year old man is supposed to look like Nelson Mandela; full of gravitas and age. Christopher Lee looks like a Tijuana surgical experiment gone wrong. Cosmetic surgery does not make man or woman look younger – it reveasl them as vain and pathetic. It is the prophecy and tragedy of Brazil 1985. Lee doesn’t have much to do in this film. His character does not advance the plot. He serves more as a declaration that Hammer Films lives again.

The jury’s out. At its height Hammer was the world leader of horror film production and recuperation2. They’ve missed the post millennium wave by a few years. If The Resident is their coming out party then their golden age will remain behind them. This type of film shouldn’t be seen at the cinema or on Blu Ray. It should be watched on Syfy riddled with commercials during a bout of insomnia.

The Hammer will fall again.

Read more Thrill Fiction: 100 Best Horror Films #1
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