On the outskirts of a rural Irish town, reclusive twins Rachel and Edward live in fear of an ancient evil that has doomed their family for generations.
By day, the twins follow a rigid set of rules to keep the dark forces at bay. At night, the crumbling mansion becomes the domain of a demonic presence.
Despite their obedience, the darkness has a score to settle with the siblings, and as their eighteenth birthday approaches so too does a date with destiny and death.
Rachel (Charlotte Vega) flaunts the rules of the family curse that are conveniently laid out in a creepy lullaby that recurs throughout the picture. She ventures out of the family home, engages with the frosty villagers and even manages to catch the eye of an injured soldier back from fighting in the Great War.
Rachel’s brother Edward (Bill Milner) is suitably ghostly and morose, but his is a one-note performance that feels underdeveloped. Edward’s characterisation often lapses into comic relief.
There are some particularly silly sequences where Edward acts as puppet master to Rachel through some form of twin ESP. The acting in these scenes is as creaky as the floorboards in the twins’ dilapidated haunted house.
Vega proves herself the better of the two leads and carries the film for the most part, although David Bradley’s unscrupulous solicitor Mr Bermingham is commendable and makes the most of a character that is one moustache twirl away from menacing the hero of a silent film.
Moe Dunford continues his quest to appear in more Irish films than any other working actor, and, as always, he does fine work, even in this minor role.
The plot, characterisation and much of the look of The Lodgers draws on tried-and-true Gothic horror mainstays. If any aspect of The Lodgers seems familiar to you, chances are you’ve seen it before in countless other films and TV shows.
I got to thinking about Hammer House of Horror a lot when watching the film. The Lodgers indulges in that series’ tonal shifts: one moment we’re deadly serious and scary, the next things are getting sexy. There’s not much of a balance here, and even at 90 or so minutes, the film feels overstuffed and inconsistent.
The Lodgers leaves little room for interpretation. Characters state their intentions plainly and frequently. Every suspicion and mystery is confirmed to us directly through kludge dialogue or on-the-nose visuals. There’s no subtlety to any aspect of the film.
As is so often the case with Gothic horror, the twins have an unsettling dynamic. Any speculation around their relationship is made moot early in the film. No mystery is allowed to linger too long. The film spells everything out for the audience, and as a result it is not engaging.
Some of these heavy-handed visuals work out better than others. For example, the cages, fences and iron gates that imprison the twins are amusing in their bluntness. The twins are trapped, but Edward also keeps an aviary in an attempt to gain some agency.
For me, these melodramatic compositions were the highlight of the film. The Lodgers is at its best when it’s embracing its hokiness.
I admired Brian O’Malley’s previous film, Let Us Prey, a great deal. That film had a novel premise, it worked well within the confines of its budget and it built toward an ending that was nuts and silly in all the right ways. In the case of The Lodgers, though, O’Malley struggles with the material.
There are some visually appealing sequences toward the close of the film, but the overall movement of the plot means that these scenes, while pretty and well-composed have little momentum. They function as aesthetically pleasing distractions amidst a dirge of a final act.
When The Lodgers is at its best, it’s a kitschy good time. Unfortunately, bright spots are few and far between.