Throughout the 60s and 70s Britain’s Hammer Studios produced some of the all time greatest horror and science fiction genre films of their time so I was really pleased to see the HAMMER logo fade up before the start of this psychological thriller.
Juliet Devreau (Hillary Swank) is an ER doctor, her daily regimen is very stressful and she loves to exercise by running in the park to stay in shape and to let off steam. Juliet has recently split from her husband Jack (Lee Pace) after finding out he was cheating and she’s looking for an apartment to rent in the city. She stops by a building where she finds a man working on one of the apartments. Juliet lets him know why she’s there and he tells her the place isn’t ready yet. The worker is Max (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) the landlord of the building. Max talks to Juliet a few minutes and seems to trust her right away letting her move in without even checking her credentials. He also introduces Juliet to his elderly father August (Christopher Lee) who comes off as sort of strange to her. His ominous looks and demeanor creating a feeling of uneasiness.
Juliet goes to an art gallery showing at the insistance of her hospital co-worker/friend Sydney (Anjanue Ellis) to help lift her spirits about Jack and bumps into Max there. The two girls both think he’s cute and Sydney tells Juliet to ‘go for it’, after which she asks Max to walk her home. On the way they stop at a park and talk awhile which provides a nice little bit of backstory to inform us even more about them. When they get back to the building, Juliet says goodbye and goes to kiss Max but there’s an awkward moment as he slowly moves away leaving her embarassed. After seeing each other again, there’s no getting around it, the two are hot for each other and they can’t help themselves and jump into bed. Suddenly, Juliet stops Max and can’t go through with it. She still misses Jack and turns him away. Feeling rejected, Max leaves but hopes they’ll work it out. What he doesn’t expect is that Juliet and Jack will reconcile leaving him out in the cold for good. This is where Max’s nice guy demeanor begins to fade away and his true twisted self becomes apparent. He begins stalking Juliet and the quaint old building he owns hides even more dark secrets.
The Resident delivers plenty of shocks, thrills and conflicting emotions (a very important element) and the cast are just excellent in their roles. Hillary Swank (Million Dollar Baby) is one of my favorite actresses and her character is more complicated and also tougher than the usual ‘damsel in distress’ we see in these kinds of thrillers. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Watchmen) as much of a deranged creep as he plays, is very tough not to like as Max which is really strange considering the things he does throughout the film. He gives such a great performance as the nice guy, I almost wanted things to work out for him even after seeing him lose his grip in full perverted glory. Out of all the psychos in movies of recent years, he’s got to be one of the most likeable right up with someone like Stuntman Mike in Quentin Tarantino‘s Death Proof. Hammer’s Dracula himself, the legendary Christopher Lee being part of the movie and the way he was shown within the plot made me think he was some kind of vampire at first. There were many things I liked going on in this movie but what I especially enjoyed was how it didn’t play by the rules. I’ve seen so many thrillers over the years with similar plots about voyeurism, so to watch a brand new film and be this enthralled by it was a real treat. The Resident is a top notch return to form for the folks at Hammer (note: this film didn’t even have a theatrical release in the US!) and I’m anxious to see what’s next on their menu of modern macabre movies!