Director: Brian O’Malley
Talent: Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner, Moe Dunford, David Bradley, Deirdre O’Kane
Released: 9 March
Who rules the roost? In Brian O’Malley’s lustrously gothic The Lodgers, the roost rules you — or at least Rachel and Edward, the orphaned inhabitants of a derelict Anglo-Irish estate, and anyone who crosses their creaky, creepy threshold. The twins are nightly confined to the house by a familial curse and its attendant spooks. As headstrong Rachel (Charlotte Vega) begins to dream of escape, the house and her brother’s unseemly desires tighten around her. The estate’s dwindling finances draw their solicitor (David Bradley) to their door. As Rachel breaks more and more of the rules binding her, an injured young man (Eugene Simon), despised by the other villagers for his service in World War I, becomes determined to help.
Rachel, played with steel and sass that adds brightness to the otherwise relentless gloom, is more than simply a victim of the curse. The film dives into the complex and ugly history of the relationship between Anglo-Irish big houses and the neighbouring Irish villages; no accident, surely, the lingering glances at a grave marked “1916.” Screenwriter David Turpin refuses to mitigate these troubled relationships throughout, in the tradition of big house literature from Maria Edgeworth to Elizabeth Bowen. Instead, he uses the tropes of horror movies (down to figures in the mirror and a Ring-like waterlogged wraith) to unfurl the horrors of social strata in 1920s Ireland, and of being stuck within the big house itself.
And what a house! The real-life star of the film, Loftus Hall, has its own fair share of eerie stories; lavishly dilapidated in production (designed by Joe Fallower), one understands its irresistible pull, even if one isn’t born to a cursed dynasty. O’Malley’s moody blue lighting and Turpin’s lush soundscape transform the estate into a creature that speaks and expresses itself, which makes up for any predictability in the human dialogue. The screenplay’s structure keeps us guessing — quite a feat in a film season saturated with escape room-esque horror houses (Mother!, Get Out, It) — and the lush, ramshackle beauty creates an atmosphere that will appeal to history and horror buffs alike.
Words – Madeleine Saidenberg