Mixing European sexuality and Universal Monster gothic charm, Hammer Films recreated the styling of the golden age of horror in somewhat bolder times. Not all of their films were monster-romp throwbacks, though; The Quatermass Experiement and Scream Of Fear are among those without castles with richly-woven tapestries adorning their walls. Hammer persevered through its ups and downs for the better part of fifty years with its heavy emphasis on atmosphere and occasional camp appeal, but sadly shut its doors in the mid-eighties after two television shows and a remake of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes finally put the nail in its coffin. When the studio reopened its doors a few years back, nostalgia took hold of fans’ expectations and, thus far, the ol’ Hammer charm has been absent from its two vampire releases, Rave To The Grave, a episodic web series, and Let Me In, a skillfully made but ultimately pointless remake. The Resident, directed by music video virtuoso Antti Jokinen, harkens back to the string of psychological thrillers the studio released in the sixties and early seventies with moderate success, feeling like a cross between Crawlspace and a wimpy, less aggressive Fatal Attraction.
After a hard breakup, E.R. doctor Juliet (Hilary Swank) is trying to move on and into a new place. Scouring every nook and cranny of the city for the perfect new residence, her dream apartment suddenly appears out of thin air. With a perfect view of New York City and a rent most people would kill for, landlord Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), barely has to say a word before she agrees to take it. Moving in a few days later down the hall from his petulant grandfather (Christopher Lee), it’s not long before Juliet begins waking up to creaks and cracks in the middle of the night along with a feeling of a malevolent presence lurking about.
The Resident is never anything more than run-of-the-mill. The screenplay by Jokinen and Robert Orr tackles subjects we’ve seen done to death, like voyeurism, and does nothing to liven them up; it even sinks to turning the entire third act into a chase scene that moves along at a pace akin to an electric wheelchair, complete with dead bodies hidden in the wall. Although there is a tense scene or two, the film simply isn’t menacing enough until it’s too late. That’s not to say Morgan isn’t creepy and politely abrasive as the film’s antagonist; quite the contrary, actually. He strikes an unsettling balance between friendly eagerness and being invasive, and manages to channel Norman Bates – only for seconds at a time, mind you – with his unhappy childhood.
But even he can’t escape the script’s uneven progression of his unhinged behavior, as his obsession with Juliet quickly jumps following her home to sucking her fingers as she sleeps, a move that skirts the very thin line between creepiness and hilarity. It’s obvious that The Resident is attempting to recreate the sexuality of early Hammer with its silhouetted shots of Juliet changing and bathing, and even running around the apartment in her skeevies, but casting Swank gives the film Dark Knight Syndrome. You can’t make someone unsexy sexy, and as it stands, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a less provocative bathtub masturbation scene.
The Resident succeeds at being the least aggressive stalker film in existence and manages to make its Lifetime counterparts look like sexually charged thrillers. Although it’s fun to watch Morgan be a total creeper, it’s painful to see the Hammer name in front a film so boring and a genre mainstay like Lee completely squandered. Ambiance, menace, excitement; these are the things a Hammer fan craves and, consequently, these are also the things The Resident does not have.