THE LODGERS (2017)
Directed by Brian O’Malley
Set in Ireland in the 190’s, orphaned twins Rachel and Edward are celebrating their 18th birthday but Edward refuses to leave their dilapidated family manor, fearing the wrath of those that dwell under the floorboards – the mysterious lodgers. Adhering to their rules of “you must be home before midnight”, “you mustn’t let a stranger cross the threshold” and “you must not escape or the other will suffer the consequence”, the twins are mentally chained to a life of seclusion from the outside world with dire consequences should they break them. Rachel, however is determined to free herself from the curse that has plagued her family for centuries and enjoy life outside their prison. Catching the attention of a soldier in the village, she experiences a sexual awakening and realises what she wants is out there, in the free world, but will the guardians of the house let her?
Irish gothic horror THE LODGERS is the latest film from director Brian O’Malley, the man responsible for the awesome Let Us Prey which I adored at Grimmfest 2014. Much like his previous work, THE LODGERS oozes atmosphere from the get-go with the period surroundings and the creepy visual of water dripping upwards to the ceiling as it bubbles and seeps from under a trap door at the bottom of the manor’s grand staircase. This is where the titular guardians of the house live. With their parents having committed suicide in the lake, like their parents before them, Rachel and Edward are all alone and bound to the home. Break any of the three rules and those dwelling beneath the trap door emerge – a fear instilled into both the twins in the movie and us, the viewers. Can Rachel and Edward avoid the fate that lies ahead of them? It seems only Rachel has the guts to try.
Edward, played by Bill Milner, is a peculiar teenager. With his pale complexion and dark eyes, he looks more like a vampire or someone who’s been dead for centuries rather than a young man come of age. His sloping around the manor, gripping onto his sister like a comfort blanket, is concerning to say the least but discovering it was he who witnessed their parents kill themselves in the lake, it’s not surprising he’s a little unhinged and needy. Rachel (an outstanding Charlotte Vega), on the other hand, is strong and independent, a harsh contrast to her rule-abiding brother. She seems clever and has the brains and drive to get herself out of the mess she finds herself in. Even though she has close run-ins with the manor’s mysterious dwellers, it doesn’t put her off pursuing Sean (Eugene Simon) – an army veteran who too is struggling to cope with the consequences of war and yearns to live a free life without the torment from those in the village. It seems everyone is trying to break away from that which is holding them back except for Edward. With their inheritance running out, Rachel and Edward might have to make a choice quickly with their solicitor Mr Birmingham (an always terrific David Bradley) keen to sell their family home to pay off their debts. What will the lodgers think about that?
THE LODGERS is a slow, brooding, cursed tale that is happy to bask in the sinister vibes it emits through its well-crafted score and unnerving visuals. Its reliance on this may be due to the fact that the story isn’t as full, rounded or fleshed out as could be, with questions still unanswered at the end of the film, but for those who quite enjoy ghost stories, the movie does enough to get under your skin. Charlotte Vega completely steals the show with her mesmerising performance as Rachel, effortlessly leading the movie and carrying the bulk of the storyline on her shoulders. I predict great things for this young actress and I think she’d make a great, younger version of Caitriona Balfe if they were ever looking for someone to play a young Claire Randall in Outlander.
Whilst the film may be regarded as style over substance, the core plot of the story, and how that dynamic is played out within the house, is captivating to watch. Yes, it has its flaws but, as a whole, THE LODGERS effectively manages to put the viewer on edge and instil a sense of hopelessness that only the brave can hope to overcome.