An oppressively heavy gothic atmosphere squeezes most of the shocks out of the Irish ghost story “The Lodgers.” But for viewers who take it more as a moody, metaphorical historical drama than as an out-and-out horror film, there’s a lot in this lush-looking, sensitively acted picture to recommend.
Written by musician-scholar David Turpin, and directed by Brian O’Malley, “The Lodgers” is set on an imposing estate, “played” on film by a 700-year-old mansion. Charlotte Vega and Bill Milner are 18-year-old twins Rachel and Edward, who like their ancestors before them are bound to this enormous house, and required by some dark supernatural forces to eschew outsiders.
With the family running out of money — and Rachel increasingly unwilling to participate in the arcane rituals of her clan — strange things start happening around the homestead. The siblings start having visions… or perhaps start seeing the real truth about who they are.
Until its suspenseful final 15 minutes, “The Lodgers” is frustratingly stingy with the scares, mostly limiting the spooky stuff to creaky noises and the recurring image of water dripping upward.
But there’s something striking going on with the character of Rachel, and her attraction to a World War I vet (played by Eugene Simon) who himself is a local outcast because he fought alongside the hated English. “The Lodgers” isn’t especially frightening, but as the story of people weighed down by their legacies, it is genuinely haunting.
Rating: R, for some violence, sexuality and nudity
Running time: 1 hour, 33 minutes
Playing: The Frida Cinema, Santa Ana