August 9, 2011
Ric La Monte
Ric La Monte
J. LaRose as Jeff
Michael Berryman as Arthur Delman
Bill Cobbs as Jack Rymer
Randy Molnar as Dr. Newman
Georgia Chris as Olivia
Sylvia Boykin as Ms. Tinsley
When Dr. Newman (Randy Molnar) was young he didn’t get to play ball with the other kids, and later was unable to go to his senior prom, because of a genetic disease that left his leg in a brace. I think Polio, but that is not particularly clear. All we know is that as an adult psychiatrist with little noticeable impairment other than a slight limp that he sometimes forgets to display, Dr. Newman is obsessed with curing disease at the genetic level. Newman neglects his duties caring for the patients at the psychiatric hospital to continue his experiments using the spinal fluid of his most crazy patient (cameo by Michael Berryman) until his lovely wife Olivia (Georgia Chris) announces that she is pregnant with twins and will leave him unless he ceases all genetic research immediately.
Meanwhile, the doctor’s assistant Ms. Tinsley (Sylvia Boykin) has her eye on the doctor (in a lustful way) and doesn’t take kindly to his wife handing him ultamatums, so injects one of the twins in Olivia’s womb with an untested serum made from the fluid of the crazy guy. A monster is a’comin.
Where do I start in describing The Tenant, written and directed by Ric La Monte? La Monte was a writer on an episode of MASH in 1975 and after what appears to be almost 30 years out of the entertainment industry he began directing low budget films of which this is the third. Third rhymes with “turd”. I’m just saying.
It is very common that the horrifying situations characters in horror movies find themselves in are the result of one or more stupid decisions. That premise is never more true than in The Tenant, which is wrought with some of the stupidest decisions in the universe from beginning to end. It’s one thing to yell at the screen as a young lovely ventures outside to investigate a strange sound while wearing only panties, because everyone knows how THAT decision ends, but The Tenant makes that look like genius as one wrong move after another leads to more and more death and destruction to more and more people. Instead of inspiring yells at the characters not to do something these folks elicit more of a “really?”
What about coincidence? One of the two major “twists” in The Tenant is the result of a “coincidence” so improbable that it just cannot be accepted. I’m not going to tell the details of this particular turn of fate because it will be too much of a spoiler, and those who seek to view this film on their own dime could feel slighted. Suffice it to say that if back stories are going to collide in an unexpected way it would be great if there were some plausible reason for it other than “gosh, if this doesn’t happen this movie will not have anywhere to go”. Man, I do want to go into detail on this too, because this “twist” results in some character behavior that is just as unlikely as the twist itself, whirling the whole film into a quagmire that will eat your soul. Sheesh.
One thing I remember from theater class is blocking – effectively knowing where the actors are supposed to be when certain activity is happening on the screen or stage. The monster attack scenes in The Tenant could have used a bit of it. Maybe a little direction for the monster himself would have been nice too. As it is we’ve got several attack scenes where the victim characters are running around a room randomly while the monster does the same. Then the monster will get hit on the head with a stick or something and run out of the room, prompting the victim characters to relax and begin to regroup only to have the monster run in the room again. The monster confusion is actually pretty funny and may be the best part of The Tenant, but I don’t think it was meant that way.
Finally, the acting performances… The Tenant does the right thing by casting genre favorite Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, The Devil’s Rejects, Penny Dreadful) and character actor Bill Cobbs (The Morgue, The Color of Money, The Bodyguard) so they can get the obligatory “great cast” nod from Fangoria, but what about the rest of them? I’m sure they are all fine performers in other movies, but in this one the characters are either stiff as wood or overdoing their performances to the point of being annoying. There is no “getting lost” in this film or forgetting that it is a bunch of people reading lines written by someone else for even a second.
In the interest of “Fair and Balanced” the gore in The Tenant is pretty good, especially when a guy’s head gets cracked open like an egg.
As a package, The Tenant is just not good. The filmmakers do seem to have unlocked the mysteries of aging though, because in most situations when you see a someone 25 years later they look approximately 25 years older, but not in this film. Nobody here ages a day, and you can’t put a price on that.