Movie Reviews

Review: “The Inhabitants” Reminds Me of Why I May Be in the Wrong Business

 

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A young couple gets more than they bargained for when they buy an historic bed and breakfast in New England only to discover that the old house is hiding a dark secret within its walls.

In the Rasmussen brothers’ The Inhabitants, a young couple, Jessica (Elise Couture) and Dan (Michael Reed), have terrible first names and it’s something I realized only after the movie ended. These two characters, the only two major characters in the film, are bland, vanilla, so boring that their names are fittingly ho-hum. Want to see a bad movie? Just watch this one.

Everything about The Inhabitants is terrible, so much so, it’s hard to muster up the energy to pick it apart. The names “Dan” and “Jessica” sum up everything uncreative about this cautious, scared production. Nothing can save a movie that doesn’t believe in itself, which is why The Inhabitants doesn’t even qualify in that abused little category of “so bad it’s good.” To be clear: if a movie is enjoyable, it is a good movie. Though a few films do deserve this moniker (the infamous film, The Room, being one), many are just put there by people who can’t enjoy a good piece of film-making unless it has the Hollywood sheen of big money production values. While The Inhabitants is shot to look cheap and grainy, and it’s genre, horror, is perhaps the one genre that embraces the challenges of low production values more than most, it’s a film not just satisfied with existing, but proud of itself for existing. Unfortunately, I am not proud of it, or proud of myself for having sat through it.

 

Being a writer, you might guess I’d appreciate a good script. But I more so loathe bad ones. Words do their work in books. A movie is someone else’s imagination coming to life. The words spoken in a movie don’t linger for me often. But in the case of The Inhabitants, every little word hangs in the air and lingers like a pet’s fart. “Now we have to go to sleep, because we have to get up early.” “Oh weird, look at this chair.” “There’s some client I’m supposed to meet, very important.” The script is full of bad jokes, lifeless line reads, and perfunctory dialogue. Hardly any lines besides the jolts of exposition move the needle. The narrative isn’t just stalled by all of this. It dies.

the_inhabitants

What’s borrowed from better horror films is uncouthly utilized. There are elements of Paranormal Activity, V/H/S, shots that remind of Psycho, details related to Children of the Corn, but flattery is not the key to success in movie making. Despite my many complaints of the old art house mood Alex Ross Perry so painstakingly evoked in his recent hit, Queen of Earth, I can’t say the film is bad. For every complaint I have of it, there’s a scene, a shot, an exchange that takes you out of your critical mind and helps you escape. All great, even decent films transport you from your station and into their world. The Inhabitants doesn’t take you anywhere. It has you checking your phone for the time, and sighing when you realize how little has passed. If you ever check the time during a film, you have to ask yourself what isn’t working to distract you from your other distractions.

What’s most disappointing about The Inhabitants is how pedestrian it is. This is indie filmmaking, shoestring budget stuff. But it resists expanding its comfort zone. The energy, creativity, surprise, and freedom that comes with many low budget successes is nowhere in this picture. Alex Cox’s Repo Man, Ross Perry’s The Color Wheel, the films of Joel Potrykus, Vinterberg’s The Celebration, movies that embrace their lowly budgets, and go crazy in pursuit of turning low budget into an art form, are all the more exciting set against a litany of films with ungodly bankrolls and narrow minded, profit focused aims. We want to get behind small budget projects. It’s why Kickstarter exists. Even the intimation of a struggling project will turn everyday people into beaming philanthropists.

Directed By: Michael and Shawn Rasmussen Written By: Michael and Shawn Rasmussen Starring: Elise Couture, Michael Reed, India Pearl

Ti West, possibly the best horror director working today, tangos with small budgets. But his films don’t wave their financial constraints like a white flag. His films enthusiastically splash buckets of blood, toy with old horror tricks, live out the conceits of exploitation (The Sacrament), ghosts (The Innkeepers), and the occult (The House of the Devil), and flow with ease from scene to scene. No new ground is broken, and yet old ground is born anew. He is dedicated to his films to where you wouldn’t know the productions are strapped for cash.

The Inhabitants seems pleased with itself for barely pulling off the cheapest tricks. The bad makeup jobs look ghoulish enough, but “enough” isn’t going to put butts in seats, or have critics pulling out their trumpets. The soundscape of creaky houses, barking dogs, rumbling bass, cackling voices, whispering wind, and screeching strings comes at you all at once, a cacophonous mess that doesn’t drown out the flushing of the narrative down the toilet. Nothing can mask bad acting, though perhaps title cards, a player piano, and the mute button would help. There’s one shot in the entirety of The Inhabitants that made me forget all the ways I wasn’t enjoying it. Jessica, swirling her arm inside of a stalled washing machine, swims around the body of a small ghost lodged inside. Captured with what may have been a GoPro camera, it accomplished something strange and unsettling, and had the added bonus of feeling new and different. How will I ever stick my arm into a washing machine again without fearing the ghost inside? And a bonus: what happens inside a washing machine is now no longer magical, but terrifying. The shot isn’t seen with the crystal clarity of an HBO production, and that’s to its success. If only a proper fraction of The Inhabitants equaled this moment, instead of miring in the mold of a million other films.

  • Acting - 2/10
    2/10
  • Cinematography - 4/10
    4/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 3/10
    3/10
  • Setting/Theme - 3/10
    3/10
  • Buyability - 2/10
    2/10
  • Recyclability - 3/10
    3/10
Overall
3/10
3/10
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