The Resort (2021)

MAY 3, 2021


I wasn't a big fan of In The Earth, the new Ben Wheatley film that is notable for being one of the first theatrical wide release films shot during (and even inspired by) Covid lockdown times, but I was impressed by how they used it to their advantage when the plot could rely on it, as well as how Wheatley used it to establish the tone and characters in its earlier (and best) scenes. And I saw it back to back with The Resort, which I assumed was also a Covid-era production because it was set mostly in/around a closed down hotel in Hawaii. The building is mammoth and clearly abandoned for real, and given the prime tourist location I figured there's no way a place like that would be closed down for any other reason but a pandemic.

But as it turns out, the film was shot in early 2018, long before the world fell apart (at least, in that regard). Turns out the hotel was closed in 2016 and set to be remodeled into luxury condos, though they apparently had some delays (the news article I read about the closure said the work would be completed in 2017) so their loss was the Resort crew's gain. Every day the place sat abandoned (and un-demolished) was another day's worth of overgrown brush, dirtied windows, etc that they didn't have to spend time doing themselves to make it look like something that hadn't been used in years.

Ironically, it's the only thing in the movie that rings true, as the rest is horseshit on a level I haven't seen in quite some time. It's barely even feature length (75 minutes with incredibly slow end credits), but still manages to take forever for anything to happen as our quartet of obnoxious twenty somethings (one's an Instagram star!) decide to ghost hunt in the abandoned hotel and, naturally, get menaced by the very spirit they already knew was there. The main girl, Lex, is writing a piece about the ghost and wants to do research, with the other three just tagging along for support I guess - it's hard to say why exactly because the four actors have such non-existent chemistry and vague backstories that I couldn't begin to guess why they hung out. They don't really fight (just a couple bits of "we have to go NOW!" type bickering), I'll give them credit for that much at least, but at least in other modern horror movies - where there's a cheating subplot or a nerd character they invite just to mock the entire time - I can get the impression that they've had history. These people might have met for the first time when action was called on their first scene together.

And that'd be fine if the horror elements were solid, but nope. Again, it takes a long time for the "Half Faced Girl" (cool name, must have taken them all day to come up with it) to show up and start offing them, and there's precious little suspense and literally zero scares before that point. They take their time getting to the island (a scene with the four of them sitting in one of their apartments, discussing their trip and the ghost's story, eats up a full tenth of the runtime, possibly more), and when they get there they dillydally even more by taking the long route to the hotel so they can stop by a waterfall and let the DP ogle their bodies with his camera. Nothing out of the ordinary for this kind of horror, to be fair, but when the actors aren't great and the characters they are playing are so dull, it's a real drag.

All could be forgiven if the long-awaited terror was aces, but nope, it's not much of an improvement on the walking around. We barely see the villain and her half face, one death is entirely off-screen, and - sigh - the movie has a framing device with the survivor telling the story to a detective, killing even more of the suspense for no reason (other than to attempt a twist that is so confusing I almost admired it. Someone on the writing team is a fan of The Beyond, I guess!). There's a terrific gore effect involving a face bring ripped off, and I liked the low-key way they offered a POV of someone being dragged off into the darkness, but even at a mere 75 minutes, a movie has to come to life for more than a 3-4 minute stretch to even enter "worth watching in the background" territory. Hell I might even resurrect the long dormant "crap" label if not for that face rip bit, and also for how much I laughed when they kept cutting back to the present day as she was telling her story, as if to prove she was telling this guy every part of her boring adventure. "And then we walked down the road a bit, talking about how many Instagram followers Bree has..."

I will give them one tiny benefit of the doubt: maybe the film was better at one point, before being so clearly retooled. The credits list a number of characters who do not appear (including a ghost!), and two additional directors listed under "additional photography" (not "1st assistant director" or something - just "director"), so as easy it might seem to place the blame on writer/director/producer Taylor Chien, it's very possible the movie was taken away from him. So who knows what happened to this thing along its three year journey from when it was shot to now, when it's being dumped out for people like me who are still a bit weary of going to the theaters* and thus being very choosy over what they see, but will take a chance on a drive-in excursion. Alas, I'm not here to review their possible intentions, and at the end of the day this terrible movie is what they chose to put out in the world at 10 bucks a ticket or whatever. Don't make the same mistake I did; there are better and cheaper ways to waste your time. It never gets better than its "Dead Minion" poster, I assure you.

What say you?

* I am fully vaccinated, woo! But it seems people have gotten worse re: theater etiquette after a year of watching everything at home. I've been to three normal screenings since I was all clear and two of them had nonstop chatter among the few other patrons. Since the "crowd experience" I miss is generally a good one (i.e. big applause/laughter when appropriate, shutting up otherwise) I think I'd rather just watch certain things at home until the Drafthouse and New Beverly reopen, where noisy patrons are dealt with by the theater instead of fellow paying attendees who don't want to have their experience ruined even further by someone getting aggro after being asked to be quiet.


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