A young female doctor, newly sprung from a live-in relationship and needing
a her own place to live, lucks into what seems like the best deal in New York
City: an enormous apartment with a great view and a low price tag. The pot is
sweetened further by the fact that the landlord is handsome, charming, and
single. What could go wrong?
Plenty for her, and plenty for the film as well.
The film started off well.
The script went to the trouble of establishing multiple possible explanations
for the strange goings-on in the old apartment, while keeping us at first
within the protagonist's POV. Is the grandpa as creepy as he seems? Is the
landlord not what he appears? Or is the doctor simply paranoid about the very
predictable failings of an old building? It could have been an intriguing
puzzle, but the director almost immediately eliminated one of those three
possibilities with spooky and ham-fisted foreshadowing. The eerie music and
the meaningful glances told us that something was amiss. Then the screenwriter
yanked us out of the doctor's point of view, switched to omniscient narration
and turned over all the cards, thus eliminating another of the possibilities.
The film employs an odd narrative structure. Although it is ostensibly a
mystery/thriller, it reveals all the secrets and draws back all the curtains
after only 30 minutes of running time, leaving a few thrills in the remaining
hour, but no mystery of any kind.
You know how the Wild Things movies always end with the whodunit being
explained by revealing a series of previous actions or schemes we had not been
aware of? Well, this film did exactly that, the ol' Wild Things revelation
technique, except that it did that at the 1/3 mark!
After that first third of the film, the viewer knows everything that had
formerly been out of sight, and can guess exactly what will happen from then
on. The only part of the narrative which remains unresolved is how long it
will take the protagonist to find out what we already know.
That's kind of a shame because this might have been a nifty little thriller if
it could have kept its hole cards down.
This is a neo-Hammer film, part of that legendary studio's attempt at a
revival, and you know that they could have developed some atmosphere because,
in a nod to Hammer's storied past, the landlord's creepy old grandpa is played
by the studio's all-time greatest star, Christopher Lee. Unfortunately, the
film turns out to be disappointing and more than a little annoying.
If you choose to watch this film, I suspect your mind
will be occupied primarily with two questions: (1) How did Hammer get Hillary
Swank, two-time winner of the Best Actress Oscar, into a movie which could
have been made by the same studio in the 1970s, and if it had been, would have
played the drive-in circuit?; (2) How did they get the same muscular Ms. Swank
to reveal that impressively toned body, especially since the nude scenes can't
be justified by the artistic merit of this project? It's not like Swank
habitually doffs her duds on screen, ala Kate Winslet. This is new territory
for her. And it's not like she's doing it for an Oscar, ala Halle Berry. This
nudity was strictly for audience titillation. If Swank has to take a role like
this in the first place, and take her clothes off as well in the process, it
doesn't seem that she's getting the respect I would presume to be accorded to
multiple Oscar winners. Kate Hepburn was about Swank's age after she won her
Oscar for The Philadelphia Story, and I don't remember her suddenly switching
to cheapjack thrillers. Frankly, I'm mystified by Swank's willingness to take
Not that I mind the nudity, of course. I might be
mystified about why she would appear in an exploitation film, but I'm also
impressed by her credentials. The Swankstress has a spectacular figure.
Here are two
different HD versions of Swank's scenes. One is 720, the other 1080.