Having just seen The Lodgers, I’m convinced of two things: (1) I should spend more time out in the sun and (2) need to quit complaining about my dysfunctional family. The film is Directed by Brian O’Malley, and features twin sister and brother, Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) who are virtual prisoners of their family estate. The isolated, Irish countryside alone inspires chills while the film’s dark, psychological components slowly bring things to a boil. Together, they help make The Lodgers much more than your average gothic thriller.
Of course, no eerie mansion would be complete without its fair share of ghosts which this one has in spades. These malevolent spirits lurk in just about every shadow while whispering the house rules to its beleaguered occupants. They are, in fact, their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents of the teens who’ve all fallen victim to the family curse – a continuous loop of incest followed by drowning/suicide. The twins understand they must never leave the house (aside from Rachel’s occasional visits into town for food) while not permitting strangers to enter in. This becomes a challenge when their lawyer, Birmingham (played by Game of Thrones’ David Bradley), pays them an unexpected visit while bearing unwelcome news. Apparently, their family fortune has dried up, leaving the sale of their haunted domicile imminent.
As Rachel tries to thwart the barrister’s plans (along with his subtle, sexual advances) her pasty brother Edward spends his days in darkness, playing with a pet raven and the bones of his parent’s deceased lovebirds. Though both are caged bird themselves, it’s their reaction to their life’s circumstances that sets them apart. Edward has resigned himself to their situation; protecting the house at all costs while eager to consummate his relationship with Rachel and fulfill their dark destiny. In contrast, Rachel longs to be free of both her brother and their family’s sins. She attempts to break the chain by falling in love with someone outside of her gene pool, a.k.a. a local boy named Sean (Eugene Simon also from Game of Thrones). Sean has just returned from a war where he lost both his leg as well as his reputation. He longs to escape the outside world just as Rachel desperately wants to be a part of it. Naturally, this situation infuriates both Edward and spirits.
This film is rife with symbolism; particularly the surrounding waters which defy gravity and serve as a constant reminder of the estate’s supernatural elements. As for the spirits, they seem to get nastier when the sun goes down. As Rachel explains to Sean, “The day is ours and the night is theirs.” What begins as a trickle slowly saturates the house until the characters can no longer ignore their fate.
Despite the dismal atmosphere, the film boasts some rather striking visuals, most notably during its underwater climax. The story is well executed and carried deftly on the shoulders of Vega and her superb acting skills. My only real complaint is that there isn’t a more distinct adversary. I feel this would have raised the frights to a level much more consistent with the setting and provided a more satisfying conclusion.
Then again, perhaps it’s the absence of a clear villain that allows the film to evoke our greatest fears. That despite our best intentions we end up making the same mistakes our parents did and find ourselves imprisoned in our own painful relationships. Either way, it’s an effective thriller and well worth shutting yourself in for.
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