Gothic romance, tortured siblings and a needlessly huge-’n’-haunted manor house hidden right out in the sticks; you can bet your lucky stars it’s another period-set Irish horror. And although Brian O’Malley’s sumptuously shot The Lodgers compounds plenty of the old-school genre nuts-and-bolts, with some slick effects work and solid performances, it’s far from the sort of spirit-stalking shake-up a lot of the horror crowd might well be hoping for.
Finding some sort of new ground in the Anglo-Irish conflicts of early 1920s Ireland, there’s a decent-enough central dynamic in a pair of outcast twins; orphans hidden away in a grubby old mansion off the beaten track, governed by a couple of omni-present, omni-pissed-off local ghosts. And when Charlotte Vega’s Rachel finally starts to rebel, hanging out with a local soldier and giving the finger to white-sheet mum-and-dad, the necessary sparks fly and her brother (Son of Rambow’s Bill Milner), starts to take matters into his own hands.
There’s plenty of period-style yearning and icky, incest-y undertones to keep the ball rolling, and production wise, O’Malley’s efforts really can’t be faulted. It’s truly Hammer-esque, and cold enough in its visuals to warrant at least a blanket or two. Vega and Milner are an unsettling pair, Game of Thrones’ Eugene Simon is about as likeable as would-be heroes come, and there’s even a neat little salute from David Bradley as a skeezy debt-collector. All the pieces are in place for a powerful little gothic ghost story. There’s just no real spark or pizzazz to any of it to make The Lodgers even the least bit memorable.
Aside from some slightly trippier visuals than expected, so much of it just disappears into the shadows of your standard garden variety horror that The Lodgers is never really that scary, that spooky or that really, well, anything. O’Malley mostly skirts round the usual ‘things that go bump in the night’ trend at the heart of most of the cheapo chillers that fall off the Blumhouse production line, and that’s to be commended. But in its place is little more than an un-explosive haunting story that does little to capture the imagination. Even the historical backdrop falls out of favour fairly quickly, and all of the things that gave the film potential in the beginning, start to slowly drop out of view.
There’s certainly nothing wrong with The Lodgers, and those looking for old-school creeks and shudders will definitely find some form of sustenance here in both the film and its classical soundtrack. But for the wider horror fanbase, this Irish effort will likely just seem a little too samey to really make a splash.