I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

The Resident

tn_residentYou know Hammer, the production company over there in London that did the old Dracula and Frankenstein movies with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing? Well, they’re back, or at least somebody’s using that name again. I wouldn’t take it too seriously except that the first official theatrical release of the new Hammer was LET ME IN, and that was an extremely well made movie. It even seems to kind of make sense that the studio that did their own version of Dracula would do their own version of Let The Right One In. So I was willing to be down with these guys.

mp_residentMovie #2 is not as impressive, though. The cover of the screener boasts “2010 THEATRICAL RELEASE,” which is screener jargon for “I know, I thought it was DTV too, but it must’ve played on like one or two screens briefly.”  (I looked it up and I guess it did get released theatrically in the UK. And in Kuwait.)

The cast is impressive, though. It stars two time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank, one time JONAH HEX cameo-er Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and holy shit, Hammer’s own Christopher Lee. It’s a pretty typical stalker movie about a gal moving in to a New York apartment and getting spied on and harassed by a weirdo.

Swank plays Juliet, the titleistical resident. In the opening we see her jogging and then going to her job as a surgeon. The clumsy first line in the movie is “Okay, we’re gonna antebate (?) this guy, fix the hole in his heart.” (Doesn’t that scare you to think you could operated on by a lady who calls you “this guy” and who has to explain to her assistants that she’s fixing a hole in your heart?) I figured this opening was establishing two things: how well she can run away, and that she has a knowledge of anatomy and surgery that could come in handy if she gets injured or needs to horribly injure her attacker. Nope, the only relevance is that she later does a blood test on herself.

But she’s split up with her boyfriend (Lee Pace) so she finds an apartment to live in by herself. It’s a big old place, seems like an impossibly good deal and there’s a nice, charming landlord named Max (Morgan) who’s very welcoming and helpful. There must be some catch, right? Well, we know, but she doesn’t, that somebody is spying on her. Is it Max the landlord? Max the landlord’s creepy grandpa (Lee)? The ex? Somebody else? It acts like it’s a surprise but half an hour in it skips back and shows you what was really going on and (BIG SPOILER THAT IS NECESSARY TO SAY IN ORDER TO TALK ABOUT THE MOVIE AT ALL AND IT’S GIVEN AWAY ON THE POSTER ANYWAY) yep, Max is stalking her. In fact he spotted her at the hospital and manipulated her into coming to look at the apartment and then pretended to be surprised.

(a question: do you think it’s weird for somebody to put up a flyer saying “Apartment Wanted” with their phone number on it? In my experience the apartments don’t come to you, you gotta go to them. Oh well, she’s a heart surgeon, not a rocket scientist.)

The beginning of the movie pretends to be the beginning of a romance, but of course we know what genre this is and what it’s headed toward. Max is kind of a Norman Bates inspired character, except Morgan is so much manlier than Anthony Perkins that it’s a little weirder fit. He’s outwardly handsome and sweet but when he’s alone he freaks out and hits things. There is a battle raging within his soul and what not, so when she tells him, “That’s really sweet of you. Thanks for being such a good friend,” he winces a little bit.

I guess he feels bad about the secret peephole in his closet, so he nails a board over it to restrain himself. But it’s like having a bunch of ice cream in the freezer and telling yourself you’re not gonna eat it. You know you’re gonna fuckin eat it.

Since her name is Juliet, obviously that could be an allusion to the ol’ Shakespeare. But you know how Romeo saw Juliet on the balcony or whatever? This guy watches her masturbate in the bath tub through a hole in the wall. So it’s pretty different from the original play.

The emphasis in the movie is on the secret violation of private space, the idea that somebody could be touching your things and breathing on your neck (or worse) when you’re asleep or have your back turned. You just have a weird feeling, something seems wrong, but it doesn’t occur to you that it’s because some dude has been drugging you and then sucking your fingers from under your bed.

The idea is definitely creepy, and I respect Morgan’s courage to just go for it, but in order for it to work it would need a good, well executed setup. Unfortunately the script is strictly amateur hour. It’s one of those movies where you can picture the writer typing up backstories for the characters, and as documentation it’s hokey enough, but then he just dumps it directly into the dialogue. So Juliet sits on a park bench telling Max what she used to do as a kid and how her parents were hippies and she was the black sheep of the family and that’s why she rebelled by going to medical school. Dime store psychological jibber jabber that’s supposed to  pass for characterization.

Hey, you need to explain why Max is too stupid to notice the security cameras all over Juliet’s apartment? No problem, make it a poetic character trait:

Juliet: “You like old things.”

Max: “I suppose I do. I’m not really one of the text message, Twitter crowd. Technology seems to be about telling everybody your deep dark secrets. I don’t know, I guess I think… secrets should be secrets.”

Also they realized that it’s suspicious for an apparently-great guy like Max to not have a lady in his life, so she straight up asks him why and he says “I never found anyone that… that got me, I guess.” Yeah, especially not the part where he’s supposed to be doing maintenance on some lady’s apartment and instead he lays in her bath tub and jerks off. But don’t give up, Max. Your soul mate is out there somewhere.

With a dumb setup like this you’re not exactly dragged into the thing, so it’s sometimes funny when he does the weirdo business like sniffing her clothes or laying in bed hornily caressing them. One particularly silly moment is when he goes into her apartment while she’s not home and – gasp, this shit is fucked up, you’re gonna probly faint – he uses her electric toothbrush. And scary music plays while he does it. That’s gotta be my favorite part.

Finnish TV director Antti Jokinen directed and wrote the script with Robert Orr (story writer for UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS). And they’re working with Guillermo Navarro, the cinematographer of JACKIE BROWN, DESPERADO and all of Guillermo Del Toro’s movies, but I wouldn’t have guessed it. I know many or most people had problems with LET ME IN as a remake to LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, but you gotta at least admit that it was gorgeously lit and shot, dripped with thick, molassesy atmosphere and yet had a very naturalistic feel to the dialogue and performances. THE RESIDENT has none of those qualities, it’s just an unimaginative and not particularly bright version of a familiar idea. The only thing that makes it stand out is the better-than-deserved cast. And the toothbrush.

I found an interview with Jokinen on a websight called filmshaft, and it’s weird because it sounds like he hasn’t seen any movies before. Everything that’s so standard in his movie he thinks is a brilliant twist on the standard formula. For example check out how he explains the idea of Swank, as a woman, being spied on:

“Yes. I wanted to make a film with a woman as the central character because I also wanted a voyeuristic aspect at the centre of the film. I think the sexuality of that layers the film like a perfume and I needed a woman to play that part. Voyeurism, for me, is about watching a woman and feeling a woman who doesn’t know she’s being watched.”

He also doesn’t seem to know that most slasher movies and suspense thrillers of the past 30+ years are about women being terrorized and then fighting back:

“The other reason I wanted to do that was from Hitchcock’s movies and other things that I found intriguing. So often in horror films when women are in danger they just run and hope they won’t be caught. In The Resident the character stands up and fights.”

Well, I guess they probly don’t have Cinemax in Finland. He doesn’t know about the Shannon Tweed movies and what not. Once the gloves are off and the two characters throw down it’s okay, but it doesn’t go nearly far enough to make me forgiving about the rest of the movie. This villain deserves more of a comeuppance than he gets. Her revenge should involve running, surgery, and the violation of his oral hygiene products.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Thursday, March 24th, 2011 at 1:13 pm and is filed under Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

18 Responses to “The Resident”

  1. nabroleon dynamite

    March 24th, 2011 at 3:09 pm

    Cinemax and Shannon Tweed. A match made in heaven. If I was on The Office during that “Is Hilary Swank Hot?” episode I would have definitely voted “Not Hot” I can only see her as that “dude looks like a lady cuz dude is a lady” in Boys Don’t Cry.

  2. I guess I’ll stick to SUPERNATURAL for my Jeffrey Dean Morgan horror goodness.

  3. Yeah, but I appreciate that she’s more the actress than the sex object. Usually they would go the other way in a movie like this.

  4. I expect Hammer films to swiftly go back out of the film making game if this tanks.

    Also, if this does indeed go belly up at the Box office, it could sink Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s career and that’d be a shame as the guy’s a seriously good actor.

    But then, how many good actors fuck up their careers thru poor choices and/or B.O. bombs?

  5. Karlos, it’s a straight-to-DVD release in USA.

    Being Finnish myself, I don’t know Jokinen, but I have mutual friends with him – I’ve heard this film was a *very* troubled production and Jokinen really struggled with studio interference. Of course the flaws in the film might still be his own flaws.

    Resident doesn’t look that hot to me, but I’ll check it out just to support a fellow Finn, who is the first Finnish director since Harlin to make a film in Hollywood. I gotta give him props for that. BTW, he’s not a TV-director despite some old TV-credits, he has made his career as a music video director in the international field.

  6. Hammer Film’s next project is The Woman in Black, written by Jane Goldman, and I suspect that that movie will keep Hammer in the running for a little while longer, karlos. I’ve actually visited the old Hammer studios, by mistake. I was visiting Highgate Cemetary in London to see some of the famous graves (Karl Marx, Charles Dickens etc) when the man at the gate told me that the sinister looking house across the street were Hammer’s old studios. Not much of an anecdote perhaps, but it meant a lot to me.

  7. billydeethrilliams

    March 25th, 2011 at 3:27 am

    “For example check out how he explains the idea of Swank, as a woman, being spied on”

    See, I would’ve left out the being spied on part because the idea of Swank as a woman is scary enough.

  8. No, we don’t have Cimemax here in Finland. But of course we’ve had our share of erotic thrillers in late night tv and video. Maybe Jokinen was too busy analyzing Hitchcock and Polanski to check those out. Although I seriously doubt that he hasn’t seen his share of b-movies and trash, because….

    …When Renny Harlin’s (another finn) masterpiece Exorcist: The Beginning opened to great critical and commercial success (or perhaps not) in 2004, I remember reading some interviews of Jokinen in finnish magazines. He worked as a second unit director in that film. My memories are a bit hazy, but I recall that Jokinen was quite succesfull music video director at the time, and Renny kind of mentored him and gave him that 2nd unit director job as a stepping stone to directing jobs of his own. Maybe Jokinen even had a directing project lined up, but I guess that Exorcist: The Beginning wasn’t quite the boost to his career that he hoped for.

    I have no idea what Harlins and Jokinens relationship is these days; is Renny still giving Antti tips how to make it huge in Hollywood (and then how to lose it all). But Renny is listed as executive producer in The Resident, so there is some kind of connection still.

    Side note: we the finns are a small nation with generally poor self-esteem. When Finns do some things of notice abroad (be it modeling, driving a car really fast or getting a bit part in latest Mission: Impossible), the press is usually all over it, hyping that we, as a nation, have once again succeeded over impossible odds or some other crap like that. So far I haven’t seen anything regarding The Resident, even if a finn directing major (b-list) Hollywood stars in a (almost) major (almost) Hollywood production is a success story I thought yellow press would love. Maybe this will get theatrical release in Finland and the press is holding their stories for that time.

    Out of morbid curiosity I have seen all of Renny’s films (except the afore mentioned Exorcist). But I haven’t seen The Resident. I wonder if there are some influences of Renny’s directing in Jokinen’s work? Or does he create mediocrity of his own? Or is the direction passable or even good and only the script sucks?

  9. Even if I live in a neighbouring country, it’s not ever day that I have a Finn at hand, so I have to ask; I remember seing a Finnish horror movie on Swedish television in the late 80’s called Moonlight Sonata or something. Is that a famous movie in Finland, and does it hold up? I seem to remember I loved back then.

  10. I don’t think that THIS movie will ruin Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s career. I mean, has he ever been in a successful movie so far? The only other movie I remember his name being on the poster, was a romcom, where he played a police officer or something like that. I like him too, but at this point he isn’t a big enough name (or face) to really worry about a box office bomb like that.

  11. one guy from andromeda

    March 25th, 2011 at 5:02 am

    sorry to be off topic, but you gotta check this out vern! : D
    http://www.kpho.com/news/27272012/detail.html

  12. Michael Henry Grant

    March 25th, 2011 at 5:33 am

    Have you seen Peter Weir’s “The Plumber”? It was made for Australian TV in the 70s, and is an awesomely small scale woman-in-an-apartment-menaced-by-a-weirdo movie. It’s also neat in that in America it’s only available on video as a “special feature” on Weir’s “The Cars That Ate Paris.”

  13. @ pegsman.

    Kuutamosonaatti (yes, Moonlight Sonata) is definitely a cult classic here in Finland. I like it, but I have no idea if it could be enjoyed without knowledge of it’s context – generally shitty state of Finnish film in the 80s, previous Finnish horror film of notice being Valkoinen peura (White Deer) from 1952, Finnish stereotypes of local rednecks etc. I have seen it few times, but it’s been quite a while since the last time and I believe I wasn’t sober then, so I can’t say if it holds up even with the knowledge of context.

    Here’s a clip to refresh your memories: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RHnygl3kgGo

  14. I met a Finn once. Cute girl. Sadly, she was on a snowboard, and I was on skis, so it wasn’t meant to be.

  15. Was this during the opening of THE SPY WHO LOVED ME, Mouth?

  16. ****SPOILER ALERT****

    Vern, in the trailer it ends with somebody jumping through a mirror. The trailer establishes that Max is the bad guy yet the person jumping through the mirror clearly isn’t Jeffrey Dean Morgan. So this leads me to believe the stalker is actually her boyfriend and Max helps her in the end. Am I wrong?

  17. Yes, we Finns (I’m one too) tend to crop up in the strangest places.

    I’m actually not surprised that The Resident was mediocre. Finland’s entire visual industry (films, TV, music videos) seems to be a fertile ground for absolutely mediocrity. We desperately try to ape successful Hollywood productions without any sense of what makes them actually work, and we’re always too late for any kind of cultural zeitgeist (I suppose our tech industry is an exception with Angry Birds, and Nokia before that).

    The core problem is that we try to imitate Hollywood productions but don’t have nowhere near the amount of money to get shit actually done that way. Films or TV shows that would be categorized as indie in other parts of the world, we do with way too oversized crews and technical ambitions. So, they all end up looking like shitty direct-to-video films. They desperately try to be slick and polished like their bigger Hollywood blockbuster cousins, but end up looking hilariously cheap with some hip and tacky cinematography and color grading thrown in.

    And with clusterfuck of the unions, the film schools and government-based funding, it’s impossible to get a film off the ground that is made with sensible goals and crews in mind. If your budgets are clocking way under ten million dollars, the fuck do you need assistant directors, production assistants, multiple producers, assistants for the actors, big lighting and camera crews etc. etc. for? There isn’t simply money left to make it to the screen.

    That’s the training ground in Finland for future film directors. No matter what the size of the budget, they’re expecting to work with a huge production machine with tons of people having input on what’s being done. Too many cooks in the kitchen, and way too much money burnt into employing people unnecessary for the scale of work being produced. So no wonder everything ends up looking bland and cheap.

    It’s studio system work without the studio system money.

    Fortunately, aspiring young directors are saying fuck it and doing their homegrown indie productions. They’re looking funding elsewhere and doing things their way. And with the advent of cheap digital, it’s becoming even easier.

    A weird Finnish kung fu film (yes, you read that right) called Jade Warrior was co-produced in China. It wasn’t any good, but the effort was there. Another more recent example is Rare Exports, a Finnish/Swedish/Norwegian/French co-production that cost two million dollars and looks like an actual fucking film. Or the entirely indie Iron Sky (although I think they got some sort of governmental grant to get started). A bizarre film about Nazis escaping to Moon after WW2 and now coming back, starring Udo Kier (!). The script was total shit, but the film looks like it’s going to be full of inventive who-cares-what-anyone-thinks kitchen sink stuff. You know, a bunch of guys wanting to do a film and then doing it. It might not ending up being great, or even good, but again, the effort and drive are there.

    Much more commendable than any of the mainstream Finnish produced films. Or, unfortunately, The Resident.

  18. “Voyeurism, for me, is about watching a woman and feeling a woman who doesn’t know she’s being watched.”

    Yes, that is the definition of Voyerism with the word “woman” added.

Leave a Reply





XHTML: You can use: <a href="" title=""> <img src=""> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <b> <i> <strike> <em> <strong>