The Lodgers


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

The Lodgers
"Richard Kendrick's cinematography is gorgeous and O'Malley is unafraid to let his camera linger, drawing out the atmosphere in scenes lesser directors might have rushed."

Twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) live alone in the big house. It's a crumbling relic handed down to them by their parents, who died tragically, and watched over by something sinister. The teenagers are haunted by strange shadows and odd noises in the night; sometimes they witness water welling up from the trapdoor at the foot of the stairs. It's getting worse. To survive, they have been told, they must follow three rules: be in bed by midnight's bell, never let a stranger cross the threshhold, and never leave each other all alone.

Brian O'Malley's Gothic fable is beautifully presented, set and shot in rural Ireland amid splendor and decay. Vega is impressive in what becomes the central role, whilst Milner broods in the background. Since witnessing the death of their parents, Edward has been intensely agoraphobic, shutting himself away. There's a hint that he knows something more about their situation than she does - or than she will admit to herself. His protectiveness when the shadowy presence seems to threaten her is part heroic, part controlling, and this latter in turn hints at his desperation as he's utterly dependent on her to fetch him food from the nearby village.

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Three factors threaten this precarious situation. Firstly, the trust fund that has financed the twins' lifestyle is running out (and they have little left to sell), which leads to pressure on them to sell. Secondly, Rachel catches the eye of a young man from the village, Sean (Eugene Simon), who intensifies her longing for a different life. And thirdly, she and Edward are coming of age. "They won't wait much longer," he says of the shadowy things. Perhaps he can't restrain himself for much longer, either.

There's more going on here than in the average Gothic tale, with the gradually unfolding plot given additional weight by the surrounding context of Irish history. The setting is 1920, in the middle of the Irish War of Independence, and though we don't see any fighting, the sense of danger is omnipresent. Meanwhile, soldiers conscripted to fight with the British are returning home, and Sean is among them, scorned by his peers for actions he could not avoid. Just as the twins are resented for their difference and association with oppression, he is resented as a collaborator, creating a sense of kinship between himand Rachel that could draw her away from her brother. These historical and psychological themes mirror the supernatural ones, revealing hidden depths.

Richard Kendrick's cinematography is gorgeous and O'Malley is unafraid to let his camera linger, drawing out the atmosphere in scenes lesser directors might have rushed. His camera is alert to small details, merging them into the whole; the textures of the decaying house speak volumes about its history and make it feel like a living thing with the teenagers in its grip. In outdoor scenes, tangled vegetation gives the impression of chaos, but everything here is beautifully controlled.

One of the better Gothic films of recent years, The Lodgers blends beauty and creepiness sublimely. It will delight genre fans and deliver pleasing chills to others.

Reviewed on: 19 Feb 2018
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Twins in a crumbling family home live according to rules set by a mysterious supernatural entity, but when one of them falls in love, the stage is set for conflict.

Director: Brian O'Malley

Starring: Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner, Eugene Simon, David Bradley

Year: 2017

Runtime: 93 minutes

Country: Ireland

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