The Lodgers is a gothic thriller that looks great but is missing the thrill.

In 1920’s rural Ireland, twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) live a reclusive life within the confines of their decaying family estate.  They live by three rules. The first is they must be in bed by midnight. The second is they may not permit an outsider past the threshold of the house. And the third is that if one attempts to escape, the other will be harmed. The rules are enforced by The Lodgers who reside under a trapdoor in the house. Rachel and Edward have the house during the day and the Lodgers get it after midnight. The first of these rules we learn during the opening of the film, when Rachel wakes up next to a small lake realizing that it is close to midnight. She runs home just as the bells of midnight are ringing. From the opening sequence to the very end The Lodgers is a visually lovely film thanks to the production design of Joe Fallover. Director Brian O’Malley does an excellent job of creating an eerie atmosphere as the story slowly unfolds.

 

Rachel is well played by Charlotte Vega, as the one who is willing to leave the house during the days. She likes to read and sit by the lake. She is also willing to go into the small village where she meets Sean (Eugene Simon) who is recently back from fighting in in the war. The other men in the village are not happy to see Sean upon his return, as he was fighting for the British. Which is an accurate pretrial of how many Irish felt about anyone willing to fight on the side of the British during World War I. Maybe it is because they are both outsiders, or maybe it is that sexual angst of youth, that causes Rachel and Sean to be drawn to one another.

Back at the haunted house Edward (Bill Milner) sits alone as he is unwilling to leave the home after witnessing their parents suicide by drowning as a child. He spends his days hiding inside the dilapidated old home with his new-found bird, and a growing jealousy in his suspicions that Rachel has met someone.

I wouldn’t call The Lodgers a horror film. In fact, it is more of a gothic fairy tale. The film isn’t full of jump scares and gratuitous blood as many films are. The only cringe-worthy moment in the movie is a shot of Edwards cuticles on his picked at thumbs. What Brian O’Malley and writer David Turpin do with The Lodgers is build the drama, while slowly providing the audience with more information on the dire situation with the finances of the home, the parents suicide, and why the their 18th birthday is relevant, eventually leading us to a relatively anti-climactic ending. And this is where I think the film falters. The film doesn’t really offer anything new or unique to the audience. The slow pacing of the film would make sense if it had lead us to something, but there really isn’t anything that happens throughout that the audience can’t guess is going to happen. The only joy we get from this film is the production design and a decent performance out of Charlotte Vega. But we are let-down by the predictability in the story and the special effects pulled straight from early 2000’s Asian cinema. The thing is, it was done really well in Ringu and Ju-On: The Grudge. And the effects are done well in this film, but the people crawling creepily on the floor has been done before.

It is always nice to see some good cinema from Ireland, but to compete in this genre it would be nice to see something that is more than a haunted house story told in a way that we have seen it told before.

The Lodgers hits Irish Cinemas March 9th.

Review by Milo Denison, the author of “How to Manage Your Manager” and one of the founders of No-Budget.