Review: The Resident (2011)

The Resident, a home invasion thriller directed by Antti Jokinen, is Hammer second shot at commercial horror after the marginally successful Let Me In.

The film centers on Juliet (Hillary Swank), a doctor who, after a messy break-up with her boyfriend (Lee Pace), rents a spacious apartment in Brooklyn, subsequently finding herself beset on all sides by a mysterious, unseen force of evil.

Jokinen’s direction, from the offset, is shaky as he tries to build quiet suspense and an eerie atmosphere on the shoddy premise and haphazard script. That said, he does make effective use of CCTV security footage captured on motion-sensitive cameras, using them to instill some low-key terror. The problem is he’s too timid to take it anywhere.

What works, is the fine fine examples of Hammer’s classic horror film aesthetic embedded within the action; from ripe dialogue, and enthusiastic cast to fog-thick atmosphere and some tense camera-work. It’s a breath of fresh air to see these techniques being used once again, it’s just a shame so see them go wasted.

In terms of casting, Swank and Jeffrey Dean Morgan both bring adequate shading to their respective characters, delivering equally respectable performances. Neither of then, however, feel comfortable enough with the source material to truly captivate us, and make us sympathise with their characters.

Sadly, Christopher Lee – in his first Hammer film for close to three decades – is shamefully wasted as August, who immediately – despite his limited screen time – brings a smidgen of credibility to the film.

The Resident is not outright awful, but it’s nothing more than a routine Hammer horror film that fails to create any atmosphere around its premise.

Review: Conviction (2010)

Based on a true story, Conviction tells the story of a working mother, Betty Ann Waters (Hilary Swank), who puts herself through law school in an effort to represent her brother, Kenny Waters (Sam Rockwell), who has been wrongfully convicted of murder and has exhausted his chances to appeal his conviction through public defenders.

Tony Goldwyn’s direction, while pleasing and sometimes well dramatised, often feels awkward, tiresome and disengaging, struggling to bring out the emotion and capture the inspirational message in an engaging manner, mainly due to the haphazard execution of the films structure, which mostly eradicates the possibility of emotional investment.

It would be easy, therefore, to cast off Conviction as a TV film trying, yet failing, to be something more, but that would be an injustice to the fantastic performances on show from more or less every actor involved..

Hilary Swank delivers a typically veracious, if less than stellar, turn as Betty Anne, while Sam Rockwell inhabits the role of Kenny with an extraordinary level of depth and naturalism, unavoidably making you trust him and believe his innocence.

Minnie Driver injects much-needed humour and likeability into the film as swank’s loyal compadre, and Juliette Lewis, despite only appearing in two scenes, completely envelops her character, giving a breathtaking performance as a wasted tramp whose also a key witness for the prosecution.

Conviction is ultimately an okay, yet disappointedly constructed, tale of retribution, elevated by several terrific performances.