SEPTEMBER 5, 2009
I try to limit the number of not yet widely distributed movies I watch, for two reasons. One, it sort of goes against the original purpose of the site (to “talk” about movies) as they are not widely seen, and two - I’d hate to put out a negative review for a film that hasn’t yet found distribution. But The Landlord has been playing lots of festivals (check out updates at the OFFICIAL SITE), the cover seemed to be referencing Psycho III, and I gave myself enough time to watch something else if I didn’t like it. Luckily, I did!
What really impressed me was how many action and effects shots were in the film. A lot of these indies keep such things to a minimum for obvious reasons, but that’s not the case here. The demons phase in and out of scenes, the finale features a building being destroyed, a door to hell... the CGI is a bit cartoonish, but it matches the film’s goofy feel, so it’s not an issue.
It’s also surprisingly plot-heavy (maybe a bit too so - the end gets a bit muddled). The demons eat people that live in the apartment (the title character being their sort of unwilling partner), and the new resident has a crazy ex who is coming after her. Meanwhile, the landlord’s sister is a dirty cop who, with her partner (with whom she is having an affair) works with vampires, letting them eat drug dealers while they keep the money/stash. All of these subplots converge in a gonzo ending, resulting in a film that never gets boring, due to the sheer amount of stuff that is going on.
I also dug the irreverent humor. The introduction to our heroine takes place at a shithole hotel, where she is trying to get a room (her failure to obtain one leads her to meeting The Landlord, you see), a scene that is broken up by a robber who plans to rob the joint, only to be scared by the girl arguing with the asshole hotel clerk (he decides to go rob the liquor store instead). And I always love characters with a laid-back attitude toward death, a trait pretty much every character in the film has. Plus, the city is called “Gacy City”, which is just distasteful enough to be funny but not actually offensive.
(Slightly more on the potentially offensive side, though certainly not to me, is a ridiculous anti-abortion commercial that occurs around the halfway mark - it’s Troma-esque in its brashness and in turn, awesomeness.)
But most importantly, it balances the horror with the humor quite deftly. You never forget you’re watching a horror-comedy, because director Emil Hyde never favors one over the other. I can’t tell if some of the gore gags are cheap-looking as a joke or cheap-looking because the budget was roughly the same as Blair Witch Project’s, but either way it keeps the goofy tone alive. For example, the hero needs something to protect the girl from the demons - traditional horror scene. But he gets one of those yarn and popsicle stick “God’s Eye” things, which the bored psychic assures him is the genuine article. Funny stuff.
My only real issue is the length. It’s only 95 minutes, but I think it could be even shorter. Some of the character subplots don’t really have much of a payoff, and there are a few too many scenes devoted to the sister being a dirty cop (it seems to me she’s actually in the movie more than the landlord). Some tighter editing and maybe another pass at the script (with an eye on reducing the page count) could have done wonders.
The DVD seems to be a professional release (it has a bar code and everything), but the transfer is kind of lousy - it seems like the 3:2 pulldown is off (nerd speak for “you see shifting horizontal lines when things move fast”), which is kind of a bummer as its otherwise a technically proficient film (again - for 22k, and lots of effects, this is quite a feat). We also get lots of extras; a making of, a commentary, deleted scenes (don’t bother), a funny short film, trailers... the whole package. The commentary is quite candid and enjoyable, but its surprisingly short on production info. Usually these type of things are like “We had to shoot this without permission” and “This is my cousin’s house” but they largely focus on pointing out story changes and telling anecdotes. In short, it’s a fun track, but not one that will be of any use to budding indie filmmakers.
Like any indie, it suffers from some woozy performances and less than stellar production value on some of the sets, but I think Hyde has got a good career ahead of him, and could work wonders with the proper resources. It’s rare I see something like this where I say “I want to see what this guy does next”, but that is certainly the case here. Check it out.
What say you?