The Lodger is a French indie horror film that is ultimately a love letter to grief. The story starts when Julie decides to look after an elderly couple – Vincent and Sylvie – in exchange for room and board, as she attends medical school. The film very quickly becomes a slow descent to madness as we learn more and more things about the home and the couple; as well as Julie in the process.
The film is psychological horror at its core. There are very few jump scares and it trades off the fact we don’t just acclimate to the horror, we start to be romanticized by it. There is an almost alluring way Sylvie welcomes us into her mad world.
Sylvie, played by Jacqueline Bisset, let’s us fall in love with the way she is elegantly able to switch between mother figure and foil. We become seduced by the absolutely bizarre situation that Julie finds herself in. We are not just invited to suspend our disbelief, but to invite it in. Julie, played by Alice Isaaz, is a welcome ingénue, whose charm is enough to stand as a solid protagonist to mirror Sylvie.
There are times in the film where the naïveté of the character will make you want to yell, ‘Girl, get out of this situation!’ and her motivations for actually staying in the job are put into question. This is a character with no sense of self-preservation. This leads to a film that is able to hold your attention long enough that looking away is almost difficult. It’s like watching an emotional car crash in slow motion. The crash is expected and the main character could have very easily avoided it. That fact does kill a little bit of the immersion of the movie.
The scoring of the film is, for the most, well-orchestrated. There are moments where the scoring could have been used to play up and emphasize the tension a little more than it already did, but for the most part it doesn’t distract from what’s happening. The framing of the shots are very well intentional. Nothing feels too out of place, with a very well executed sense of pacing. The directorial style borrows a little bit from Hitchcock’s techniques to build suspense.
The props, which are integral to the film as its characters, could use a little work. There’s a real opportunity wasted to have made an iconic prop that sticks to memory, but unfortunately, the film falls a little short on that.
Ultimately, this is a well made indie film that is best enjoyed coming in blind The twist is a little ridiculous at first, but worth the payoff at the end. It is a character film, shot within a limited budget and has all the trappings of your typical indie horror. It’s a fun but flawed romp.