Frankly, given how clichéd and predictable the resolutions to every mystery thrown up by David Turpin’s script for The Lodgers are, it’s something of a miracle Brian O’Malley ever procured the budget to shoot it. Fortunately, the ability to surprise (or even maintain a mystery) isn’t all there is to O’Malley’s film, and The Lodgers passes ninety minutes in a creepy enough manner to sustain the viewer’s interest even as every speculation inevitably pans out.
It’s 1920, and in a huge, neglected mansion somewhere in rural Ireland, eighteen-year-old twins Edward (Milner) and Rachel (Vega) live in terror of what might happen if they break the rules passed on by their parents before they committed mutual suicide in the lake on the grounds four years earlier. At the foot of the main staircase, a trapdoor leads to ‘below’ where water emerges to drip upwards every night at midnight, and which whispers warnings to the twins when it looks like one or other might transgress the laws of the house. These decrees are given in the form of a nursery rhyme during the opening titles, and if they’re a little prosaic they’re easy enough to understand and form the basis for both the film’s jeopardy and its solutions.
Edward, who witnessed the incident in which his parents died, has become mentally broken and has refused to set foot outside the family home ever since, whereas Rachel, seven minutes Edward’s elder, on an occasional trip to pick up supplies from the local village encounters Sean (Simon), a veteran of the recent Great War who fought on the side of the English and quickly becomes captivated by the quiet, self-possessed yet mysterious young woman.
The rest of the film follows Rachel as she attempts to escape the curse that has trapped her family for generations, while simultaneously revealing the details of the spell and the provenance behind it. This latter element is a little awkwardly handled, given that Rachel rather than Sean is our identification point within the fiction, but O’Malley does show a great deal of sensitivity around and sympathy for his characters, and if their situation is overwhelmingly obvious - at least to an audience who’ve seen this kind of thing many times before - we at least care about the would-be lovers, even if the whey-faced brother is rather more difficult to like.
The half-Spanish Charlotte Vega is excellent in a breakout British role, especially considering the inherent leaps of faith she’s burdened with giving authenticity to, and in truth, there isn’t a duff performance in a bleak but beautiful, deliberately-paced and melancholy film that lacks only for a little levity. Even the inevitable ending, while signposted throughout, feels appropriate enough to satisfy.
Extras: Trailer / Behind the Scenes / Deleted Scenes
THE LODGERS / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: BRIAN O’MALLEY / SCREENPLAY: DAVID TURPIN / STARRING: CHARLOTTE VEGA, BILL MILNER, EUGENE SIMON, DAVID BRADLEY / RELEASE DATE: JUNE 25TH