MARCH 29, 2011
I can only assume that The Resident was re-edited and tampered with, since filming took place in 2009 (and then "additional shooting" in 2010), and two editors are credited, which is unusual unless they are a team of some sort (the two share no previous credits in this case). Also it’s a goddamn mess, with Hilary Swank telling Jeffrey Dean Morgan her sob story about having to keep the bed her boyfriend cheated on her in, about 15 minutes before her character actually informs him that her boyfriend cheated on her. And why her character is someone who can afford to pay $3800 a month in rent but can’t afford a new bed is never explained.
And it’s a real shame, because on paper this had promise. Boasting three good stars (Christopher Lee also appears as Morgan’s grandfather) and the creepy premise of someone suspecting that one of her neighbors is actually spending most of the time “living” in her apartment, this could have been an above average thriller in the vein of all those 90s psycho movies like Pacific Heights or Single White Female. Plus, it’s the first original production from Hammer in decades, following the remake Let Me In, with Lee’s participation signaling an act of some sort of confidence.
But right off the bat I suspected something was off. In addition to the confusing matter of Swank’s past, it was also unfolding with incredibly generic broad strokes. It’s one of those movies where anytime the heroine’s phone goes off, her sassy best friend automatically knows that it’s her ex boyfriend, and instantly says “Why are you still talking to him?” even though the woman silenced her phone and thus decidedly is NOT talking to him. Or when she goes apartment hunting and the realtor boasts about the "great view" and it’s just a wall – hilarious... in 1982. And every 5 minutes they cut to her jogging, because she’s a strong, healthy woman! Not a loser! Except for the fact that she can’t bring herself to buy a new bed.
And of course, Morgan seems like the perfect guy, so you know he’s the villain. There’s a quick glimmer of hope when Lee is introduced, because for a few minutes they sort of play with the idea that he might be the villain, not Morgan, and maybe the movie would be about our heroine trying to figure out which of these two men are trying to kill her (like Sliver!). Or, even better, they’re both deranged and working together in some sort of creepy father-son tag-team. But then it all goes to hell once they ‘out’ Morgan as the sole bad guy, in a ridiculous "finale of Saw"-like sequence in which we watch pretty much every scene in the movie again, except now with cutaways of Morgan standing in the shadows looking creepy. We also learn that he actually engineered the entire chain of events that led her to taking the apartment, which seems like a lot of planning for a dude to hook up with a specific woman. That it happens only a half hour into the movie is sort of admirable – at least they’re not trying to trick us for too long – but this also means you’re already re-watching scenes that have barely ended the first time.
Plus they never explain why he is so infatuated with her and/or why he seemingly can’t land a date. He’s a handsome guy, and not socially awkward like Norman Bates, so what’s the problem? And why HER? She’s not particularly interesting, in fact all we know about her is that she’s an ER doctor – wouldn’t he want someone who might have a more normal schedule that would allow him to do his creepy stalker thing? It’s like he goes out of his way to pick the least compatible stalkee in New York.
From this point on, Lee has no purpose in this movie. He doesn’t try to help Swank, he doesn’t assist Morgan, he seemingly harbors no secrets of his own... he just hangs out in doorways and his bed until Morgan injects him with something and kills him, and the character is never mentioned again. You’d think they’d give their golden boy a meatier role. It’d be like if Roger Clemens came back to the Red Sox and they put him at 7th on the relief roster.
Most damning, it’s just dull as dirt. There’s seemingly no one else in all of New York, so the entire movie is just Morgan watching Swank. She gets a security system that Morgan never seems to notice (despite the fact that she leaves the program running on her giant computer monitor while she’s gone), her friend never shows up again, and her boyfriend re-enters the picture but never even has a real scene with Morgan. So there are all these opportunities for good suspense scenes, but they are never taken. Instead, once Swank finally catches up to the audience, the two just smack each other around, chase each other through the apartment building, and then smack each other around some more, for what seems like a full twenty minutes at the end of the movie. Luckily, there is one true Hammer quality to the film – it ends as soon as the bad guy is dead. Most of these movies hover near the two hour mark, but this one is 90 minutes with credits.
It’s a shame they screw up the ickiest aspect of the movie, which explains why Swank keeps sleeping through her alarm. It’s actually quite disturbing, and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was part of the initial concept and they reverse engineered the movie to get to that point, but it’s too little too late. Plus, by that time it’s impossible to take Morgan seriously as the villain, because we’ve seen him fondling himself in her tub (fully clothed!) and using her toothbrush, which I guess is supposed to be creepy but it’s just laughable. Maybe it’s just because of my fondness for Morgan, but he’s too much of a guy’s guy to buy into this. Perhaps he and Lee Pace (as her ex) should have swapped roles – I can buy Morgan as a guy who fucked up and wants to get back with the woman he betrayed, and I can buy Pace as a creepy stalker who jacks it in someone else’s tub.
I really don’t know who this movie was made for. It’s rated R, but only for 2-3 F bombs and the most obscured “nude” scene of all time. The body count is 3, and one is by injection and another is off-screen entirely, so we’re clearly in PG-13 territory in that department. So: middle aged single/divorced women seeking something a little more risqué than CSI, I guess? Every man in the movie is a piece of shit, so I can’t see male audiences warming up to it either.
The Blu-Ray isn’t all that much to write home about either. Apart from a few nice exterior shots of New York (oddly, most of the interiors were shot in New Mexico), nothing really pops, and detail isn’t as crisp as I’d expect from a newer film in high def. Black levels seem a bit off too – one of those two editors loves to fade to black, and when they do so you can plainly see that the movie’s blacks are more like gray. Only extra is a trailer, which is a shame as I was hoping to get some sort of explanation for how Renny Harlin ended up with an executive producer credit.
I really hope Hammer gets it together. Let Me In is a perfectly decent movie, but it’s also a pointless remake of a 2 year old film, and thus it’s hardly the sort of thing to point to when rejoicing that Hammer has returned. And this is a thrill-less thriller that rightfully went direct to video. Their next film is another original, a ghost tale called Wake Wood - third time’s the charm, I hope?
What say you?