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article imageReview: TIFF 2017: ‘The Lodgers’ cannot escape their unwelcome guests Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Sep 19, 2017 in Entertainment
‘The Lodgers’ is a chilling, gothic tale of co-dependent twins imprisoned by a family curse with its own song and curfew.
“Blood is thicker than water,” but that doesn’t mean it can’t still be poison. Sometimes one’s relatives can be even worse than the greatest threat they’d face outside the home. Yet, the physiological bond keeps them from seeking escape since leaving a loved one can be incredibly difficult regardless of the circumstances. The reasoning behind these invisible shackles can vary, but their presence is no less restrictive. In The Lodgers, a pair of siblings are prisoners of their enormous house — or, more specifically, of what resides beneath it.
Twins Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner) live alone in a dilapidated manor at the edge of a small Irish town. The manor has been passed down from generation to generation, as has the stories about its mysterious inhabitants by the townsfolk. Edward is a shut-in, but Rachel cherishes every second she can spend outside of the dark and dank prison they call a home. She handles their affairs in town, enduring the queer looks… but there’s a returned soldier named Sean (Eugene Simon) who doesn’t look at her with derision. Instead, he may be the answer to her prayers. With their 18th birthday passed and determined not to fulfill the destiny thrust upon them by a family curse, Rachel intends to leave the house with or without Edward — if it will let her.
The film is a striking gothic ghost story that uses the gloomy atmosphere and even gloomier house to tell a dark tale with political undertones. Set during WWI, the narrative demonstrates there’s more than one way to become a pariah in a small town. Rachel and Edward are deemed eccentric at best, but more commonly freaks due to their family’s history. Meanwhile, Sean has been labelled a traitor for fighting alongside the English even though he was likely conscripted and paid a heavy price for his contribution. Therefore, it’s not surprising Rachel and Sean feel a connection to each other since their position in society is similar.
The supernatural element of the story is skilfully executed and quite intriguing. In spite of knowing something haunts their domicile, its history and nature are not revealed to audiences until much later in the narrative. The family’s legacy is not difficult to guess, but how it’s kept somewhat ambiguous and woven into the tale is effective. Moreover, director Brian O'Malley doesn’t rely on jump scares; instead the focus is on the creepiness of the curse’s constant presence and growing dominion over the house. There’s also a fairy tale element as the rules their meant to follow to avoid upsetting the house’s other residents are remembered in a melancholy song both siblings know by heart… and one holds over the other to retain their loyalty.
The Lodgers had its world premiere in the Contemporary World Cinema category at the Toronto International Film Festival. Don’t miss the rest of our TIFF 2017 coverage.
Director: Brian O'Malley
Starring: Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner and Eugene Simon
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