The Resident is the new film from Hammer Studios, the past masters of British horror, which recently reopened its doors. Though it is clearly an American film, The Resident does feature some of Hammer’s old trademarks while pleasantly avoiding the redundancy of homage.
Hilary Swank stars in (and executive produces) this simple home invasion thriller. Having recently left her boyfriend, Juliet (Swank) moves into a new apartment in New York. From her first night onwards, she comes to suspect that someone is entering her apartment when she is asleep. Could it be some previous occupant of the apartment? Could it be her ex-boyfriend Jack (Lee Pace) or her landlord Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) or his sinister grandfather August (played by Christopher Lee, one of the film’s few references to its studio’s past glories)?
The Resident is a by-the-book woman in terror film, a genre that Hammer made many contributions to in the sixties and seventies, most likely because they are cheap and quick. The Resident is not particularly innovative, being instead very conventional and recognisable. However, as a thriller it has many good moments and even a few interesting ones. For about half of the film’s running time, it is unclear who Juliet’s prowler will turn out to be (although not if you’ve seen the posters and trailers). The film uses a variety of red herrings and keeps the possibilities open until a midpoint series of flashbacks that spell out the culprit. Following the reveal, the film suffers a little from a tangible indecision as to how to proceed. With its twist in the middle of the film, the film is unsure whether to continue to privilege Juliet’s point-of-view or to show more of her stalker. In the end, it focuses a little too much on the stalker, allowing us to loose sight of Juliet. As well as this the film’s pace suffers as we are left waiting for Juliet to discover the identity of the stalker.
However, the film does overcome this stumbling block as the sequences focussing on Juliet’s stalker do have some interest. Little psychological touches here and there pepper the film with intriguing scenes, such as the stalker’s impotent glee at using Juliet’s toothbrush. The stalker’s performance is very good and is certainly believable, the pointless and lazy backstory notwithstanding.
The film doesn’t quite fall apart during the final chase sequence as many of these films often do, though it does descend into slasher movie clichés. Though not quite as destructive as the ending of Fatal Attraction, the final showdown in The Resident may be frustrating to many and is full of unintentional comedy, something the rest of the film had managed to avoid. However, it is nice to note that the typical Hammer ending remains, simply: a shot of the hero walking away, a shot of the defeated monster and a shot of nearby scenery as the credits begin to roll.
Faint praise it may be but what The Resident excels at is dodging the majority of the pitfalls of this kind of film. Unlike Them, it does not venture outside and unlike John Carpenter’s recent comeback, The Ward, it does not twist itself into incomprehension in its desperation to surprise a savvy audience. A decent psychological thriller, The Resident points a way towards more Hammer classics without looking to the past for Tarantino-style references.