Star Rating:

The Lodgers

Director: Brian O'Malley

Actors: Moe Dunford, Charlotte Vega, David Bradley

Release Date: Friday 9th March 2018

Genre(s): Drama, Horror, Romance

Running time: 92 minutes

Teen twins Rachel (Vega) and Edward (Milner) are holed up in a crumbling mansion, which has been in their family for two hundred years, on the outskirts of a tiny Irish village circa 1918. The sickly, tormented Edward is a shut-in, deathly afraid of displeasing the entity (or entities) that dominate the house with oppressive rules, leaving only the confident Rachel to make for town to pick up supplies. It's on one of these trips she meets Sean (Simon), just back from the trenches minus a leg and the victim of bullying from Dessie (Dunford) and his IRA buddies. As Rachel and Simon warm to each other she sees a possible escape route from her veritable prison. If only the jealous Edward would see it that way…

If spooks and jumps is what you're after you better look elsewhere. The Lodgers isn't an out-and-out horror. But then it never pretends to be. With Edgar Allan Poe, The Woman In Black and The Innocents as reference points the goal here is mood, tension and atmosphere and director Brian O’Malley (whose last, Let Us Prey, was a fun B-movie gothic thriller) largely achieves them. Gloomy visuals dominate - take a bow cinematographer Richard Kendrick (Silence, Song of Granite) - with O'Malley's camera resting on the dark shadows that are cast over the impressive interiors of that decaying house (Wexford's Loftus Hall) and unkempt grounds.

A slow burner, David Turpin's script (an allegory for the destruction of the British ruling class post WWI perhaps?) deliberately keeps the audience in the dark as to what the entity wants from the nervous teens. Questions abound - Who is the naked couple that float above the nearby lake? Why aren't strangers allowed in? What will happen if they disobey the rules? And what does, "They won't wait much longer… now we are of age," mean? – and Turpin is in no hurry to answer them, preferring to suggest and hint rather than explain. This is a plus and a minus. It creates mystery and suspense but it's not altogether clear what the ghosts are up to or what their endgame is. The answer to why is this happening remains elusive.

The cast are game. Milner satisfies as the pallid morose boy who has accepted his fate (one shot, in which he emerges silently from the shadows, will give one the chills) and is a perfect foil to the bright Vega. The Lodgers is really her story and Vega's strong and convincing turn holds the attention.