Movie Review: The Lodgers

By Wes Maulsby 10.09.2019

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The Lodgers (UK Rating: 15)

Fewer aspects of ourselves are more adept at curating horror than taboos. They are aspects of ourselves we have rejected and forced into the darkest corners of our societies. Exploring taboos is to explore the unknown aspects of ourselves, and it is within that unknown which horror and fear manifests itself. At least that is the approach that director Brian O'Malley has taken in The Lodgers. Set in a small Irish villain shortly after the end of the first World War, the film introduces the audience to a world of taboo which has ensnared orphaned twins and threatens their lives, as well as the lives of everyone who strays to close to them.
It is clear very early in it, that its strength is going to lie within its visuals. Both O'Malley and the film's cinematographer, Richard Kendrick, combine their efforts to create startlingly eerie and unnerving visuals early in the film, which last for the entire 92-minute run time. The setting, a dilapidated mansion, is overrun with filth and decay, and as a result, never fails to deliver a strong visual when the film calls for it. Peppering the landscape of this structure, as well as the grounds around it, are a series of images which constantly force the audience to wonder if they are even real. These are not quick on-off shots either, certain motifs, images and even creatures within the film will stick around for a long time, without any sign of falseness being the run is swept out from under us.
Alone, the visuals are the strength of the film, but when combined with the ever-increasing tension of the film, they work together to create a satisfying and, at times, thrilling horror experience. This is not a horror film that is going to rely on cheap jump-scares to trick the audience into being scared. Instead, it is going to rely on its central premise - a taboo which has cursed these two children as they come of age, the strength of its cinematography, and O'Malley's keen knack for introducing us to new concepts and sights whose tenuous connections actually serve to increase the film's pull and tension. Even when those tenuous connections of the visuals fail to line up nice and neat, there is no detriment, as the unknown aspects of horror are what drive its power.

While the meaning of some of the visuals remains somewhat unknown even after the conclusion of the film, the central premise and reason for the horror is very much not. The crux of the curse is not so subtly hinted at throughout the film, and only becomes clearer with each passing minute. What begins as strange question as to what the two characters are actually up to eventually becomes the main point of the film as it is one of very few plot points the film has active at any one time. The audience will be onto what the film is doing long before the big revelation, and while that does not detract from the style and interest of the visuals, it does soften their edge. The impact of some of the strong visuals is lost when there is no mystery to back them up.
Outside the immediate world of the tortured twins, things are pretty vanilla. There is a little town with a roving gang of bullies who do bully things, a singular family who run a shop and that is about it. There are tiny glimpses at larger stories taking place around these characters, such as the Irish bullies not trusting the Irish soldiers who went to join the British in the war, his shopkeeper mother who does not trust the children from the mansion, and his sister who really has nothing to do in the entire film except be the subject of some harassment here and there. The lack of characters both external and internal to the main plot line don't give the audience much to cling to as the next creepy image comes by with no one foe the audience to be attached to.
Rated 6 out of 10


There are many things that The Lodgers gets right in building up tension for an extended period of time before the big pay-off. Unfortunately, it misses on enough key characters and narrative elements to prevent it from a sleeper hit. Fans of horror films searching for a memorable or distinct narrative experience complete with new characters to fear for are going to be disappointed with what it has to provide, but there is enough there visually and creatively to prop up the experience and to make horror fanatics satisfied.

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