Review: THE LODGERS
Well, The Lodgers sure as hell came out at a very opportune time. With Del Toro riding high off the success of his Oscar for The Shape of Water and a slew of Disney live action adaptations racing to theaters, dark fantasy is enjoying a renaissance of sorts. It's a tricky genre to execute. If played safely, it can come off as too childish. If too dark, it can get cheesy or even veer into horror. Irish filmmaker Brian O'Malley follows up his gothic folklore film Let Us Prey with The Lodgers, a movie that blends fantastical and horrific mythology so perfectly that O'Malley should be a director on everyones watchlist.
It's 1920 in rural Ireland, twins Rachel and Edward live on the outskirts of a small village, deep in the woods in a dilapidated mansion centered in a lush green marshland. Rachel awakes among pages of a notebook, the sun setting on a small lake, and rushes home as a bell tolls midnight. Her brother awaits her arrival at the top of the stairs and in a angry whisper he reprimands her. "It's almost midnight." As they close their respective bedroom doors, a small trapdoor at the foot of the staircase starts to bubble up with swamp water and thus we are thrown into the world of the The Lodgers.
The movie keeps the story pretty close to it's chest for the majority of the film. With smart little clues we are let in on the secret of the twins and their bric a brac home, slowly but steadily learning about their history and what secrets their vast living quarters hides. Writer David Turpin and O'Malley expertly pace the movie, dancing on a wire between too revealing and annoyingly opaque, allowing the viewers to be able to put the puzzle together themselves without ever exactly spelling it out for them. A creepy lullaby is the main conduit for what we glean but village rumors and the anxious dialogue between the twins will help unroll the plot. What unfolds, eventually, is somewhere between Gaiman and Grimm.
The Lodgers is a beautiful movie. As much credit as O'Malley deserves, the cinematographer, costuming department and location manager all need a call out as well. Cinematographer Richard Kendrick captures the beauty of the land and conversely the decrepitation of their estate in a brilliant dichotomy. The outside is almost forbidden to Rachel but lush, alluring, open and bright. Her home, however, in all it's grandness is a claustrophobic sinking ship and she's dying to get off. Una O'Dowd found an absolutely perfect location to set the gothic romance piece and Sarajane Ffrench O'Carroll fine tunes the costuming with such precision that the movie feels inherently twenties without force feeding the timeline.
The cast is small but it's easy to see that in different hands, could have changed the entire film. Bill Milner does a great job as Edward, the frail and timid twin with a frightening penchant for violence, and David Bradley has a fun bit in a small role, but Charlotte Vega carries this movie on her back. A gorgeous powerful role, Vega's Rachel is a bold and powerful woman who carries a burden with her at all times and Vega is able to portray both sides of the coin with a commanding performance. Effortlessly beautiful and nuanced, the vulnerability and daring of Rachel makes her an entrancing lead.
O'Malley is excellent at crafting a world in small spaces. Where in Let Us Prey he was able to use a single police station to build a believable mythology. With The Lodgers, despite it's isolated environments and small cast, the folklore feels entirely real. It hints at something majestic yet sinister, and the ugly truth behind the legend will give you chills. O'Malley is a deft craftsman, easing the story along naturally, truly playing the role of storyteller.
The Lodgers is an example of all of the puzzle pieces forming a cohesive picture. From writer to cinematographer, director to lead actress, O'Malley and crew have put together an enchanting film with some truly spine tingling moments as well as a lot to admire on screen. The Lodgers is subtle in it's horror, and in it's beauty, a fantastic period piece that's well worth the watch.