The Resident (2011) / Thriller-Horror
MPAA Rated: R for strong violence, language, sexuality and nudity
Running time: 91 min.
Cast: Hilary Swank, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lee Pace, Christopher Lee, Aunjanue Ellis
Director: Antti J. Jokinen
Screenplay: Antti Jokinen, Robert Orr
Hilary Swank (PS I Love You, The Reaping) stars as successful ER surgeon Juliet Devereau, who must find an apartment of her own in the metropolitan New York area after she catches her beloved boyfriend (now ex), Jack (Pace, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day), cheating on her. She finds a magnificent one, for a reasonable price, in Brooklyn -- spacious with a great view -- and the friendly, hunky owner of the building, Max (Morgan, Watchmen), might just be the sort of guy she could use to get her mind off of her break-up. However, unbeknownst to Juliet, Max is the creepiest creep in NYC, peeping at her while she bathes, prancing around her apartment while she sleeps, and sedating her enough where she doesn't notice. The two share a brief romantic moment only to have Juliet miss her ex, who has been tenacious in his pursuit of her. But Max isn't just going to let the object of his obsession just walk away.
Even for the direct-to-video schlock-fest that it is, The Resident feels a couple of decades out of place, par for the course for the kind of erotic domestic thrillers that Hollywood churned out in the late 1980s and early 1990s, where odd people with unnatural obsessions determine to try to sweet-talk their way into the lives of unassuming members of the opposite sex, only to have to resort to violence when that significant other decides that what they have isn't really what they want. The film's script, co-written by Finnish music video director Jokinen, sets the film up more as a mystery as to what's going on in that giant apartment that is causing Juliet to feel just a tad uneasy, but the goods are given up quite early. This leaves the rest of the film as not much more in plot other than to see if Juliet can figure out what we already know from close to the outset, namely, that she's renting an apartment from a psycho.
The Resident is a production from the recently resurrected Hammer Films name, the legendary horror house that released classic chillers in the 1960s and 1970s, many starring Resident co-star Christopher Lee (Alice in Wonderland), who plays Max's father and provides, at least for a few minutes, one of the plot's possible red herrings. Other than that tidbit of trivia, Lee's involvement in this production serves merely to look old and creepy when need be.
The best thing about The Resident happens to be the two main actors. Hilary Swank, a two-time Best Actress Oscar winner, isn't exactly utilized for her acting chops so much as for her sex appeal. Though a doctor, her character isn't exactly the brightest bulb when it comes to matters of love, not only allowing the man who threw her love away for another woman back into her life, but also sticking around in an apartment in which she gains no real sense of peace or belonging, and strings along its psycho landlord as a friend without ever suspecting that he's got a major obsession going. Audiences will have a hard time buying that a smart, attractive and resourceful woman couldn't do better for herself, not only for her choice in men, but also in choice of living conditions. Or, for that matter, Swank in her choice in movies, though it should be noted that she's also credited as executive producer. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is also effective by playing a role of the dreamy, handsome, easy-going guy who can fix lots of things. Without playing anything different physically, his appeal does a 180-degree turn, as he becomes repugnant, creepy, stalkerish, and akin to a man-child.
The rest of the film is about a woman caught in various states of domestic vulnerability and lack of clothing, from sleeping in her luxurious bed to long, quiet baths. Creepy guy gets bolder with each repeat visit, and we recoil when it's revealed just how far he's gone, leading the the reveal we all know is coming and the subsequent cat-and-mouse confrontation. As slickly directed and acted as this exploitation piece is, it's just too derivative and not nearly nuanced enough to justify making a full-length feature out of. A little more suspense and less shock would have gone a long way to making the film more tolerable. It's the first film back from the previously defunct 'Hammer', and already they have struck the first nail in their next coffin.
©2011 Vince Leo