The Resident (2011) – ★★☆☆☆

Dun dun dunnnnn!
The Resident is a rather pedestrian thriller that stars Academy Award winner Hilary Swank (she also produced it) and pits her against Grey’s Anatomy and Watchmen star, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, as the apartment super from hell.

Swank, an emergency room surgeon, is searching for a new apartment following a separation, and stumbles upon an almost too-perfect opportunity in Morgan’s lovely, old, gothic-lite apartment building. Morgan is ruggedly handsome and appears pleasant, and the film clearly wants us to like him. Morgan plays Max, the super, with disarming, aw-shucks charm in the early part of the film and Swank’s Juliet seems to like him. Her coworker, portrayed by Aunjanue Ellis, encourages Swank to sleep with Morgan in order to “get over” her estranged husband and his affair.

Though we, the audience, don’t quite know what’s up with the spooky noises at night, we know someone is stalking Swank in her new apartment. We peer, along with her stalker, through peepholes and breathe heavily with him as she undresses for baths, shakes out her hair, puts on clothes, etc. This woman’s nice new apartment has come with its very own creepy, voyeuristic stalker.

I won’t bore you with a full synopsis of the movie, but it suffices to say that this film is big steaming pile of shit.

If I had to slot it into a genre, I would probably call it a domestic gothic (if that is even a thing). It has the creepy old building, a menacing male presence, and the anxiety and paranoia that usually comes along with the ride. What it doesn’t have is a coherent, believable plot or a particularly fleshed out villain. The movie attempts to gives us some vague backstory for Morgan’s character that seems intended to generate sympathy, but it’s unmoving.

Morgan does what he can with the role, and tries to make his character, Max, a mix of sexy, dangerous, disarming, and mentally unhinged (especially in the latter half) but both he and Swank are undone by a weak script and played out premise. Swank’s character is especially dull and flat; I found it hard to care about her as a character, though I cringed at the right parts and yelled at her (in my head) to get out of the apartment, look behind the two-way mirror, and whatnot. The characters were just stock gothic characters: Morgan as the menacing male who has invaded the victim’s home and disrupted her personal space, and Swank as the damsel in distress who is at his mercy.

This type of movie has been done a million times over, and probably a million times better too. There are also parts of this movie that I found exploitative and upsetting. It’s not an innovative or fresh take on the stalker genre, though it is rewarding to see Swank kick some butt and for Morgan get his comeuppance at the end.

The two stars are because of the quality of the actors involved; Christopher Lee is compelling, but completely wasted in a throwaway role that basically serves as nothing more than to give some backstory on Morgan’s character. Swank, Morgan, and Lee do their best, but can’t overcome the script or the shallow, tired premise.

The Resident came out in 2011, and was directed by Antti Jokinen.

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