Playing February 23rd at the Nightlight in Akron, as a part of Dread Central Presents.
Longtime readers should know that I am a big fan of gothic romance / haunted house pictures because I know, going in, that I will probably be looking at a beautiful period-piece which will feature spooky atmospherics and a melodramatic story. The Lodgers gave me some solid heebie jeebies which is enough to make me want to recommend the film.
In this gothic supernatural thriller, a family curse confines orphaned twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) to their home as punishment for their ancestors’ sins. Bound to the rules of a haunting childhood lullaby, the twins must never let any outsiders inside the house, must be in their rooms by the chime of midnight, and must never be separated from one another. Breaking any of these three rules will incur the wrath of a sinister presence that inhabits the house after midnight.
While Edward is committed to this ill-fated life, he’s becoming more unhinged due to the fact that Rachel is not. Smitten by a local soldier (Eugene Simon), Rachel grows skeptical and begins to rebel, desperate to escape the oppression and misery of their captivity.
What moves me about gothic romance films is that they are few and far between and that it even less common to have a well-crafted and professional independent gothic romance. There is a certain financial need in these pictures which is probably part of why they are rare. But, director Brian O’Malley already wrote about that so I won’t try to go into it in detail.
Another issue is they cannot be very easy to market. Guillermo del Toro ran into a wall with his beautiful Crimson Peak. While the director was completely open about the genre the marketing for the film made it look like it was much more of a gory horror film than is its true character. These are horror films, but they have more in common with a 50s Douglas Sirk film than what is usually billed as horror. I think that O’Malley may have found a way around this with a marriage of gothic romance and a Japanese horror film, like Ringu. It is a peculiar pairing which works and it helped to give me those previously mentioned, heebie jeebies.
The film excels in the important aspects of a gothic romance/horror picture. The score is unnerving, the costumes and design seem flawless, and the effects were nearly perfect. When studying film you will learn that, occasionally, the best effects can be found in lower budget films because they have to maximize the bang for their buck and they typically have to rely on film trickery, depective editing, and physical effects, rather than super-computer produced digital effects.
It is possible that the sound recording is better than what I had access to but it was above average and, luckily, The Lodgers is definitely on my list to re-watch. I am really interested in watching Charlotte Vega’s performance again. Gothic romance films excel at female characters whose arcs surpass their male counterparts. They are typically a sibling with more survival instinct than their unique brothers, and Vega truly excels at that. Also, the familial story at the core of The Lodgers is an interesting twist to the genre.
What I am trying to impress upon you is that you need to check this movie out. It isn’t the best movie, but it is a very good movie. It will be in limited release and if you can, especially if you are a fan of the genre, you need to seek it out. It is well crafted and, above all, it is spooky.
Director: 8 – Cinematography: 8 – Edit: 6 – Parity: 7 – Main performance: 8 – Else performance: 4 – Score: 9 – Sound: 6 – Story: 6 – Script: 5 – Effects: 9 – Design: 10 – Costumes: 10 – Keeps interest: 7 – Lasting: 10