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.
It’s a fairy-tale of sorts.
There’s intrigue and mystery, lots of wandering through woods and even a young woman in a hooded cloak (of course, this garment is black, not red).
But The Lodgers never cashes in on that wide-open promise. The time, the proper manners of the era and the darker fantastical elements of the piece could have been mined for more call-backs to fairy tales – certainly of the Grimm Bros.-type.
The Lodgers follows Irish twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega of REC 3: Genesis) and Edward (Bill Milner) as they try to keep their lives together – just as they’ve reached their mutual 18th birthday. The ancient mansion where they live is in disrepair, their parents are dead and they’re out of money. On top of all of this, there’s a deep, dark secret about their ancestors and what’s hidden in the buckling floorboards in the rotting home’s massive foyer. There’s a set of rules to be followed by the twins – set about by their parents long ago. When Rachel meets Sean, a handsome young war veteran in the nearby village (Game of Thrones’ Eugene Simon) and begins to question hers and her brother’s solitary existence – the violent dangers of their family secrets will come to a head.
The easy comparison piece to The Lodgers would be The Others. It’s an old gothic home, strange rules which must be followed and a mystery to be unraveled. In The Others this mystery was for the characters as well as the audience. In The Lodgers, the characters know exactly what they’re up against and so it’s up to the viewers to gather clues until the final reveal.
From every technical aspect, The Lodgers rules the roost. The art direction is simply stunning. Not only is it a gorgeous location (shot in Loftus Hall – considered one of Ireland’s most haunted houses) – it’s also dressed so perfectly in period garb with the appropriate age and watery rot. You can practically smell the mold as you’re watching the film.
The score is extravagant and fits the period. And of course, the costumes all feel authentic. I can’t find one thing about the laundry list of amazing artisan work present in The Lodgers with which to take issue. In other words, **applause**
It’s beautifully shot (massive kudos to cinematographer Richard Kendrick) – with long pans of gorgeous locations and interiors. There’s so much shadow and so much depth to each shot – that you’ll want to frame certain images and hang them on your wall. Noteworthy is the conversation between Sean and Rachel as they sit beside the property’s lake (an important place in the story). As it cuts back and forth between them – the shots with Rachel have her all the way to right side of the frame – with lush trees, grasses and shadows behind her – filling out the rest of the frame. This is just one which comes to mind – but honestly, the entire film is really remarkable in it’s camerawork and composition. Delicious.
And special mention should be made about the battery of good visuals in the film’s climax – striking, fantastical and well-done.
Performances are solid across the board. But the two stand-outs for me are Vega as Rachel and Harry Potter’s David Bradley as the family’s long-standing attorney.
Vega has a wonderful “Nicole Kidman in The Others” coldness. But when she starts seeing things and begins to fall in love with Sean – she captures Rachel’s many splintering (and for her – unknown) emotions as well.
Bradley as solicitor Bermingham has little screen time, but he is certainly memorable. Bermingham’s a crotchedy and impatient old man. And the script also allows him to show off some other – even more unpleasant – sides to Bermingham. An effective supporting performance to be sure.
For fear of biggie spoilers, I’ll kind of side-skirt one of my issues. Suffice to say that the introduction of such forbidden actions and taboo subject matter – was great, but it simply didn’t go far enough. It’s all only hinted at, and never really spoken out loud. I understand that the era in which the film is set is all about proper behavior and certain politeness. But once things start to unravel for the twins, I wanted it to go deeper and certainly darker. Frankly, it felt a little too vanilla for my tastes.
And that brings me to my big problems with the film. The technical things are all lovely and wonderful, but the story seems to hit the brakes somewhere after the first act. All of the set-up and mystery and the many rules the twins must follow – garners plenty of intrigue and engagement right from the get-go. But then it slows down a bit too much – and that becomes an issue.
And that final reveal (you’ll probably see it coming as I did) wasn’t as bonkers or bananas as I would have liked. Perhaps I’m a sucker, but I was quite shocked by the ending of the aforementioned The Others (it was a more innocent time, my friends). And if that’s the film with which I’ll compare The Lodgers – well, it’s a losing battle for the latter.
It loses its pacing, and falls a bit into the argument; “should we, or shouldn’t we?” If it had gone those extra steps to a somewhat unpleasant, and deeper examination of the ideas presented – I think it would have garnered a higher grade – especially in light of all of the film’s other achievements.
Strong (to brilliant) technical aspects highlight a film with good acting work – but the overall story and pace aren’t up to par. Not a masterpiece by any stretch, but still worthy of a Saturday afternoon viewing.
And to circle back around to that unused promise of fairy-tale goodness – do they all live happily ever after? I’ll never tell…
The Lodgers held it’s US premiere at this year’s Screamfest in Los Angeles. It’s still on the festival circuit, and no wider release information is yet available.