I’m pretty stoked about the relaunch of Hammer Films. As a lifelong fan of the brand (even what many consider to be their weak early ‘70’s output), there’s just something about seeing that iconic name at the beginning of a whole new crop of films that makes it feel that all is right with the world. Of course it helps that, thus far, Hammer’s offerings have been well above-average, with the excellent Let Me In and it’s follow-up, the perverse and suspenseful The Resident.
Hilary Swank stars as Juliet Devereau, a stressed-out intern who, upon finding her boyfriend in bed with another woman, finds herself looking for a new place to live in high-priced and overly-populated New York City. When Juliet gets a phone call informing her of the availability of an apartment, she quickly pays a visit to the property – a gorgeous old property with views of the Brooklyn Bridge - only to discover that the landlord, Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), is still busy renovating. He tells her that the place isn’t ready to rent, but Juliet falls in the love with the apartment and, worn down by both her beauty and persistence, Max decides to let her have it.
Juliet is thrilled with her new home. It’s huge, full of character, and, most importantly, priced well below market. Of course, not all is perfect; her next door neighbor is Max’s creepy granddad, August (Christopher Lee), and there’s a little matter with the house shaking every time a train passes by, but, for the most part, everything’s peachy. Max even helps Juliet deal with her man troubles, making her a great dinner and offering her a shoulder to cry on. When their friendship threatens to become something more, however, Juliet quickly puts on the brakes, as she’s still not over her ex, Jack (Lee Pace). It’s here that, through a clever “rewind” segment, we learn the truth about Max and his intentions, and, as Juliet reconciles with her cheating beau, we bear witness to some of the most uncomfortable moments of voyeurism and perversion to grace the screen.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan is absolutely riveting in his role as the tortured Max; a character we fall in love with in the first act only to have the rug completely swept out from under us when his bizarre proclivities are revealed. Even knowing full well that Max is too good to be true, Morgan’s such a charismatic and appealing actor that the reveal proves truly gutting, and, despite his despicable behavior, I still found myself sort of rooting for him up to the bitter end. Of course, seeing as how Lee Pace’s Jack is so thoroughly bland and unsympathetic, I imagine I’d be rooting for just about anyone over him, which is probably my biggest issue with The Resident. We never get the sense that Jack’s done anything to win back Juliet’s trust, save for a few texts and phone calls, so, when she suddenly develops a change of heart and reunites with the unfaithful scoundrel, I just didn’t buy it. Hell, my wife won’t talk to me for a week if I so much as sneer at her.
What makes matters worse is that Juliet’s choice of Jack over Max (who’s been nothing but kind to her so far as she knows) is what fuels Max’s desperate final act, but seeing as how Jack’s character is so underwritten (and so woodenly portrayed by the usually reliable Pace), I found I had next to no investment in his well being, and, ultimately, wanted to see Max prevail. It’s both a testament to Morgan’s excellent performance and an indictment of the somewhat lazy screenplay. That being said, I enjoyed The Resident. I found the suspense palpable, the direction sublime, and the cinematography quite beautiful. It’s a sexy and salacious adult thriller with a deliciously devious streak that succeeds despite its thematic issues, and is very much a Hammer film, reminiscent of the studio’s early ’60’s thrillers that focused less on the supernatural and more on the monstrous tendencies of man.
The Resident comes to Blu-ray courtesy of Image Entertainment, sporting a nifty looking 2.35:1 1080p transfer that boasts rich, vibrant colors, and that, coupled with a fine veil of cinematic grain, lends the film a sense of vintage warmth. Detail is exceptional, especially evident in facial features and fabrics, but also quite noticeable in the gorgeously designed sets. The image is complimented by a robust 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio track that fills the room with wonderfully immersive ambient effects, from the sounds of chirping birds in the park to the din of a packed emergency room. This is an extremely aggressive and busy track, with lots of thunderous bass and ample use of the surrounds, but, surprisingly, dialogue is crisp and clear throughout.
Extras are limited to trailer’s for this film and a handful of other Image releases, all presented in HD.
A welcome throwback to Hammer’s distinctive “middle period”, The Resident offers decidedly adult chills and thrills in an expertly acted and well-crafted package. It’s not a particularly original film, and it lacks in terms of character development, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s bravura performance more than makes up for the film’s minor shortcomings, making The Resident an easy recommendation.