The Lodgers: A horror set in Ireland’s ‘most haunted house’

Review: Terrific story of a haunted big house has a baffling denouement

The Lodgers
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Director: Brian O’Malley
Cert: 15A
Genre: Horror
Starring: Charlotte Vega, Bill Milner, Eugene Simon, David Bradley, Deirdre O'Kane, Moe Dunford, Roisin Murphy
Running Time: 1 hr 33 mins

There are unmistakable shadows of The Turn of the Screw in Brian O'Malley's modestly successful ghost story. Working from a script by David Turpin, the picture hangs around some fascinating ideas about otherness in Irish society, but there is a sense that too much tinkering has gone on with the machinery. A terrific founding concept leads on to a denouement that could only be more baffling if it were in Japanese.

In this case, the haunted siblings are separated not just by their supernatural encumbrances but also by their status as ascendency snoots. “The rich pay late,” people say.

Deirdre O’Kane, good as the local shopkeeper, would certainly confirm that Rachel (Charlotte Vega) and Edward (Bill Milner), the posh twins in the big house, have trouble settling their bill.

But, by this point in history – the years after the first World War and the Easter Rising – the rich were often not really rich anymore.

Dying strain

Turpin’s script depicts the dying strain as desperate, incestuous and potentially haunted. A series of odd rules governs their miserable lives. They must allow no strangers in the house. They must never leave that home. All doors must be locked by midnight. To defy these regulations would be to unleash the wrath of . . . the Lodgers! (as the trailer doesn’t quite say).

It’s a terrific concept and, played out around Loftus Hall, allegedly “the most haunted house in Ireland”, the film builds its atmosphere reasonably effectively. Rachel’s tentative relationship with a returning soldier risks unsettling the queasy equilibrium. Edward’s apparent madness swells.

Milner, so good as a kid in Son of Rambow, proves the standout in a hugely variable company of actors. We can also rely on Moe Dunford as a local tough and veteran David Bradley as a gaunt family solicitor.

A terrific late convulsion gives us a spooky submerged echo of the haunted house. By that stage, however, the plot has decayed to crumbs and fallen through the looming Gothic cracks. Yes, I suspect tinkering of the most serious sort.

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke

Donald Clarke, a contributor to The Irish Times, is Chief Film Correspondent and a regular columnist