Just a few years back we caught word that the legendary Hammer Films studio would return to deliver some fresh and enjoyable horror films, much like they did all throughout the 1950s, '60s, and '70s. Only the most hardcore of British horror experts has seen all of the Hammer films, but you've probably seen more than a few yourself. The Curse of Frankenstein (1957), The Horror of Dracula (1958), The Mummy (1959), and dozens of others (not to mention sequels) poured from the studio like so much blood from the neck of a vampire's victim. Right around the mid-'70s, the magic petered out, and Hammer stopped the horrors with a flick called To the Devil, a Daughter (1976).
To those who've grown up as ravenous horror geeks, the Hammer collection has proven to be a treasure trove of Saturday afternoon delights. Needless to say, we were thrilled when we heard that the Hammer would be swung again in the late 2000s. So what happened?
Their first flick, Beyond the Rave, debuted on YouTube(!), and their second flick, Wake Wood, has been delayed for quite some time. True, Hammer did partner up with some production companies to create the surprisingly good remake known as Let Me In, but unfortunately that movie suffered a very swift death at the box office. So in many ways that makes Antti Jokinen's The Resident the first "official" Hammer Films comeback movie -- and boy is it terrible. It boggles the mind of this lone horror fan that Hammer would choose such a limp, lethargic, and obvious concept for one of their first new efforts, and the screenplay sure isn't given any help by a blank (if, fine, familiar) cast, a leaden pacing, and a mercilessly generic presentation.
Stop me when this sounds boring: an emergency room doctor (two-time Oscar recipient Hilary Swank, who has frankly rotten luck with genre films) needs an apartment in a hurry, so she accepts a "ridiculously too good to be true" offer from a very handsome but slightly weird landlord (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), who lives in a massive apartment building with nobody but his quietly creepy grandfather (Christopher Lee). Yes, she's smart enough to be an apparently well-off doctor, but not smart enough to smell the weirdness afoot. The poor doctor is suffering from a broken heart, you see, so it's not very long before she and the new landlord are getting smoochy. Then, about an hour into the movie, the old boyfriend pops back up and (wow) the movie actually has one conflict to offer. I'll spare you the rest of the story; you absolutely know how it ends.
Aggressively dull most of the time, and intermittently stupid (but not nearly often enough), The Resident is of interest two precisely two types of people: 1) Those who wouldn't mind seeing Hilary Swank step out of a bathtub, and 2) Those who've never even heard the word "psycho" before. Were it not for the high-profile names of Ms. Swank and Mr. Morgan, this inert lump of a wannabe thriller wouldn't even get airplay on Showtime 9: The Psycho Landlord Thriller Channel. And to those who thought that Christopher Lee's insultingly pointless role in this year's Season of the Witch was an egregious waste of a horror lord's talent, just wait until you get a load of the 3.4 scenes of pointlessness he's offered here. The man may as well be holding a sign that says "I'm only here to put in the trailer and on the DVD cover. Horror fans love me, you know." Granted, the man is very old, but if you have Christopher Lee for only 3 or 4 scenes, let the awesome veteran be interesting in some small way. The character he plays is entirely superfluous, which is a bit of an insult to the audience, if you think about it. I don't recommend you waste the time.
Aside from one creepy scene near Act III's lukewarm arrival, and a few outlandish moments in which Morgan (a really fine actor) hides in a closet and keens like a baby gibbon while Swank gets naked in the tub, there's literally nothing in The Resident that will raise your pulse or your interest. To say we'd expect more from the allegedly resurgent Hammer Films would be an understatement, but the fact that someone in charge green-lit this project in the first place ... well, that might be cause for alarm.