21 January 2011


Twelve Things about The Lodger

12. This might have gone directly to DVD (and got slapped with the year's worst cover), but don't let that fool you. It has far more class than cheese. Admittedly, not the kind of movie I usually review here.

11. Furthermore, I'm not usually into psychological Thrillers. Give me a psycho and give him a knife--or a hook--or a chainsaw--or even a tire iron--and I'm happy. No need to explain his motivations; I watch Horror from the Morality Play school. Scratch a two-dimensional villain and you'll find evil worthy of the most profound theology. Scratch a complex psychiatric case and you have a villain who isn't really a villain. (Unless, of course, his name is Hannibal Lecter!)

10. Besides, I once knew a girl who was a Psychology major and who couldn't stand most psychiatric evaluations that made their way into scripts. The way she complained about them, they seemed roughly on the level of a Cozy Mystery writer explaining that the dead body in a locked room had been killed by the fallout from radioactive pixies.

9. One thing I really liked was the whole Jack the Ripper framework. I perked up when it became clear we were dealing with a copycat/homage killer--and now I want to read up on all the real history and then watch the movie again.

8. A potentially cheesy thought: there were some bits that reminded me of the Sidney Sheldon novels I used to read on the sly in the sixth grade--which I liked because learning the identity of the killers never failed to shock me, even as everyone else seemed to think they were obvious from the beginning.

7. I think the anti-death penalty angle could have been worked more effectively . . . but then again, this isn't a movie with preachy angles.

6. For about an hour into the movie, I thought the filmmakers were making one of those "Let's all just get along" statements and that Shane West's character was gay.

Judging by the shock on Alfred Molina's face when he learns the truth, he must have thought the same thing when they were making it. (LOL!!!!)

5. The Thriller is a decidedly masculine genre--especially in print--and I'm always amused by attempts to pad one with female characters. This one gives Molina's detective a suicidal wife and a sullen daughter. And while these relationships give him an extra layer he otherwise wouldn't have, the wife seems to exist solely to make him fit a certain textbook profile a colleague tries to pin on him, and the daughter to make the killer's last attempt at murder more dramatic than if the target were someone nobody knew.

It's too bad nobody thought to kill two birds with one blade
and make West's "Is he or isn't he?" character
shoe some romantic interest in Molina's daughter.
(But that's just me thinking like a girl . . .)

4. Just right now--yes, just right now--I figured out the difference between a Slasher and a Thriller. Or rather, the difference between their fans. Not that we can divide the world into two distinct classes of people on this basis or anything, but . . .

Whom do you more readily identify with:
terrorised teenagers or dedicated detectives?

3. If this were a Horror movie, the ending would be be setting up a sequel. Since it's a Thriller, it's just playing with our minds some more . . . which is not necessarily a bad thing. You know I'm all for conventions!

2. Interestingly (to me, at least), this is another movie that I hadn't known was based on a book. The Lodger by Marie Belloc Lowndes, published in 1913, is one of those "old" books I've been blogging about. And since it's almost a century removed from this decidedly modern adaptation, I'm more inclined to read it than I would otherwise be.

1. Finally, I thought it was great that the filmmakers used Mozart's Lacrimosa. Most of the time, when I hear classical music in a soundtrack, I assume it's just audio "wallpaper" for two-dimensional ambiance.

Not that this movie is any exception, really. =P

I pray that someday I shall run into a straight Horror movie
that understands the power of the Requiem.

Image Source: The Lodger DVD


Dauvit Balfour said...

My favorite use of classical music in film is Albinoni's Adagio for Strings in the original Rollerball. It carries the heart of the movie.

I've always been more of a fan of thrillers myself, not that I've watched many, but Identity, The Game, Psycho, Mindhunters, and the creepier episodes of Doctor Who and Torchwood always appealed to me more than slashers. Is there a psychological reason for that? Maybe, or maybe it's just another one of my random artistic prejudices.

Enbrethiliel said...


Slashers appeal to me because of the morality play element. The characters usually "deserve" what is coming to them, except for one or two who have given some sign of "virtue" that saves them in the end. (If Slasher writers were more subtle, we'd have more classical "fatal flaws" here.) And there's something mysteriously Marian about Final Girl defeating the villain each time.

Thrillers are just too detached for me, although I also enjoy them. As I've implied, I identify more with the teenagers who are running for their lives! But I am planning to read more Mysteries this year, which means I'll likely end up watching more of their film counterparts, too.

But enough blather from me. Why do you prefer Thrillers to Slashers, Dauvit? Don't hide behind "random artistic prejudices"! There's always a reason, and I'll bet your analysis will be interesting!

Dauvit Balfour said...

My analysis may not be as interesting as you think. Remember I am woefully deficient in horror; my parents never let me watch any of it as a kid. Perhaps I merely haven't given the slashers enough of a chance, but I can give an explanation a shot.

If slashers are Platonist, thrillers are Aristotelian. There is no transcendent, only the immediate (er, uh, hem, I've been reading Arturo too long). Really, though, that's not a very good reason to prefer thrillers, maybe it's just an observation, but I did prefer Aristotle to Plato.

A better explanation might be that thrillers seduce both the intellectual and the cynic in me. The mind-games, and the idea that good never ultimately triumphs, are an escape from straightforward happy-ending story-telling.

Thrillers live in the gray, and while I despise relativism, I get sick of people who are so convinced of their own rightness that they condemn the Other as totally depraved.

Again, observations that make me think I ought to give slashers another chance, because there's nothing worse than a movie in which even the good characters are loathsome.

Eh, speaking of blather...

Maybe it really is as simple as liking the suspense and the mystery. Probably.

Also, this might be good.

Enbrethiliel said...


I like your Plato/Aristotle dichotomy! And although I never studied either of them properly, I think I always did prefer Plato to Aristotle. Hmmmmm!

There's another form of "good never ultimately triumphs" in Horror--especially the franchises. No matter what the heroes (and I use that term loosely) do, the villain always comes back.

Of course, world of Horror is so wide that I wouldn't limit anyone to a spectrum with Thrillers at one end and Slashers at another. What do you think of Stephen King? I haven't tried Dean Koontz yet, but I've heard he does decent Horror, too.

Dauvit Balfour said...

I never really read King or Koontz. My only real exposure to King is from watching The Shining, which of course King hated. I'm familiar with a lot of his stories, of course, but I've never read them (though On Writing is right next to Strunk & White on my bookshelf).

Most of the vampire and werewolf movies I've seen have been more action than horror (Blade, Underground, and the like), though I really want to watch Let the Right One In sometime.

I never had much taste for supernatural horror of the Ring variety. They always seem to get the supernatural wrong.

I'll give Werewolves and Vampires this: they can't shake off their Catholic undertones no matter how hard they try (or, they couldn't until a certain housewife got her glitter covered hands on them).

I guess that's about where my horror opinions should end.

Enbrethiliel said...


Dauvit, if you can, watch the original Ringu. It scared the pants off me. There's something of the One Ring in the original cursed video tape.

I asked a friend with a passion for Japanese culture what tradition Ringu might be rooted in, and she told me of ancient myths about evil spirits trapped in objects. Anyone who touches those objects--however innocent he might be--gets cursed. There's a huge moral question that gets asked at the end of Ringu, which I find especially interesting because it comes from a completely non-Christian background. We "Westerners" take for granted that good will win at the end of a Horror movie--even if it only wins "for now" and comes back later in another form. But the Japanese filmmakers and viewers obviously don't have the same context for their Horror.

Enbrethiliel said...


PS--You're reminding me that mthe anniversary of my WerePunk "coming out" (howling out?) post is coming up. I should do something to celebrate it . . .

mrsdarwin said...


There was a film from the 1920s called The Lodger, directed by Alfred Hitchcock and starring Ivor Novello, a popular singer. (Interestingly enough, Jeremy Northam plays Ivor Novello in Gosford Park, and he discusses the film The Lodger with Maggie Smith.)

Enbrethiliel said...


Mrs. Darwin, I believe both movies are based on Lowndes' novel! =D

I saw Gosford Park years ago. The ending made me wish I had paid attention! =P