Sometimes movie critics will re-evaluate a film years later to determine if there was something better or worse that they missed during the first viewing. That happened to me for the horror film, The Shining (during round two, I clued in on more of the nuances and thus liked the film much more than I did previously). I do not know, however, if I would ever come back to evaluating The Resident — I can’t imagine a second viewing would make me conclude this thriller/horror film was actually thrilling or frightening.
You would have seen a film like The Resident before (it’s one of those stories that has a person moving into a new location with a terrible secret) and so you would have seen a character just like “The Resident” it speaks about before (basic stalker type like Ghostface, Michael Myers, WWE superstar Kane’s character in See No Evil, etc.). This particular film revolves around young doctor Juliet Dermer (Hilary Swank) as she settles into a new apartment. The person haunting Juliet is the landlord Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). The difference between Max and the others I mentioned? Max may be the least scary bad guy of all time.
Rather than scary, he’s just creepy. Not creepy for the audience, mind you, but for Juliet. Like some sort of pervert, he spies on her day and night. Maybe he’s taking advantage of her because she’s single. She catches on eventually and fights to free herself from him — and as expected, a game of cat-and-mouse commences between the two. Yes, as you can deduce by now, the characters and plot lack any originality.
Yet while there’s a lack of originality in the characters their portrayals are a merit of the film. Hilary Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan are credible and convincing handling the hackneyed characters they’ve been given. The same cannot be said about Christopher Lee, however. Seeing him is great, but his performance is thrown away and ultimately, his presence in The Resident is conceived merely as a star vehicle for him to notch up another title to his already massive filmography.
The twists of the story are verbally revealed during the film, ruling out any real, unpredictable, suspenseful turning points (I won’t reveal the conclusion of the film, but hey, even if you don’t have much of a history watching horror movies with stalkers, you should know how it will end). And because we know the twists and turns before they happen, the 91 minute film drags heavily — watching it felt like a school day where you sat for a boring lesson and repeatedly looked at the clock but hardly saw the big hand budge.
The cinematography is nothing more than a collage of try-hard attempts. There are many shots which I suspect were done to try and impress the audience — slow motion sequences, in and out focus scenes, and even one of the moon to show the passing of a night. None of them work in terms of indicating something significant in the film and they detract significantly from the ambience, however, strictly in terms of shooting (bar the content), it’s well done.
Perhaps the not-so-eerie atmosphere isn’t all due to the camera work but is due in part to the inordinate amount of silence in the film and the less than gripping dialogue of all parties (where are the Hannibal Lecter’s to say something creepy like, “A census taker once tried to test me. I ate his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti.” to put a lump in your throat?). And when it isn’t silent, director Antti Jokinen enlists unnecessary background music to induce the proverbial jump scare. The only thing missing are screams and scary voices to bring out the fact that the characters are in a terrifying horror movie.
So there you have it, cinematography: Technically good; script: Bad; acting: Better than the movie deserves. The Resident, even with a multiple Oscar winning actress in a lead role, is nothing more than an opportunity missed. Therefore, I recommend renting an older film that employs this time tested formula — only one that does it better.