Bryan O'Malley can do atmosphere. He proved that with the enjoyable Let Us Prey. And he proves it again with The Lodgers, a film literally dripping with wet and gloomy atmosphere in a number of memorable scenes. He's helped himself this time around by also casting a better selection of actors for the main roles. Sadly, this time around sees him hampered by a weak script and some strange choices made that allow the film to simultaneously feel as if it is revealing secrets and moving forward while at the same time not really showing us anything or going anywhere.
The plot revolves around twins named Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner), living in their family home in Ireland. It's one of those big houses in the middle of nowhere, of course, and Rachel and Edward have to abide by rules set out in a very simple rhyme. Those rules include not letting others into the house, staying together, and being in bed by midnight. Yes, as you can maybe guess, those rules end up being broken, leading the pair into danger.
With nice turns from Vega and Milner in the lead roles, the latter having to be almost permanently morose throughout, and solid supporting work from the likes of Eugene Simon, Moe Dunford, and David Bradley, The Lodgers is a horror film that has had obvious care taken with almost every aspect. It's a brooding mood movie, more akin to something like Crimson Peak than, for example, The Quiet Ones, and not just because of the period setting. This is old-fashioned gothic melodrama, something that was closely bubbling under the surface of Let Us Prey, and that seems to be what O'Malley prefers in his horror (no bad thing).
Unfortunately, all of the good work from the actors, and all of the atmosphere, is undone by a weak script from David Turpin. It looks to be a first feature from him, which makes sense. Turpin is so caught up in the moodiness and vague sense of creepiness here and there that he forgets to underpin the events with anything more tangible, even as he takes the time to create friction between our two main characters and the locals (with Dunford woefully underused as a potential threat, more's the pity).
And yet . . . The Lodgers isn't BAD. It's not a film trying to be overly pretentious, or even trying to peek out from below genre robes and show that it's not really a horror at all. It's just a decent tale undermined by some weak writing, which bodes well for the day that O'Malley finally matches up his talent with a talented cast and the right script for him. He keeps doing good work, and I know that he's creeping closer to giving us something great.
The Lodgers was supposed to be the second film on the opening night of FrightFest in Glasgow, but The Beast From The East put an end to that. It is, however, already available on US iTunes, for those who wish to check it out.