HK and Cult Film News's Fan Box

Friday, August 12, 2011

THE TENANT -- DVD review by porfle

It's fitting that THE TENANT (2010) takes place in a mental institution, because the movie itself suffers from a split personality.  The first half is a moody little creeper that has the potential of slowly but surely developing into something good, while the second half abruptly morphs into a stalker-killer flick whose story depends on the utter stupidity of its characters.
The film opens with venerable actor Bill Cobbs doing his bit to lend some star power to the credits by stopping by the asylum and dropping off a few heads he's procured from the local morgue.  Dr. Newman (Randy Molnar, who resembles a cross between a doughey Val Kilmer and a hungover Rip Torn) uses them in his DNA experiments while neglecting both his patients and his pregnant wife Olivia (Georgia Chris). 

When Olivia threatens to leave him unless he stops his experiments, devoted nurse Ms. Tinsley (Sylvia Boykin) injects her with spinal fluid taken from one of the patients, a homicidal cannibal named Arthur (the great Michael Berryman in fine form).  The result is a set of mismatched twins--one normal, the other a deformed monster. 

This half of THE TENANT is slow and low-key, with a darkly morbid (and at times slightly comic) mood and some good performances by the leads.  Writer-director Ric La Monte adds some nice touches here and there, such as Olivia's melancholy rendition of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata" on an untuned piano, and a queasily unsettling ultrasound image.  Things come to a head with the mildly horrific birthing scene, which promises to switch the story into high gear. 

What we're hoping for at this point is "Herbert West, Re-Animator" meets "It's Alive", but what we get instead is an SUV filled with deaf-school kids breaking down in front of the abandoned asylum twenty-some-odd years later.  Attractive instructor Liz (Aerica D'Amaro) urges surly ex-con driver Jeff (J. LaRose) to break into the place so the kids can have shelter for the night.  But as soon as everyone's inside, they're trapped by a sliding steel door and stalked by a hulking human monstrosity--namely, Dr. Newman's bouncing baby boy, now fully grown.

As you might have already guessed, (a) nobody is able to get a signal on their cell phone, and (b) these dopes can't wait to go wandering around on their own.  The result is your usual stalker flick with occasional moments of excitement amidst long stretches of tedium.  We don't even get the expected perks of the "dead teenager" flick, such as gratuitous sex and nudity--the deaf kids do little besides signing a few random comments to each other.  We learn nothing about them except that they don't like getting killed.

Character behavior is often painfully illogical--Liz and the other bickering adults keep leaving the helpless kids huddled by themselves, and when two of them are violently abducted by the monster (he yanks them right through a wall), the kind of frantic emergency action that rational adults would take in order to rescue them is nowhere to be seen.  "How would I realistically react if someone was attacked by a big, hairy maniac right in front of me?" is a question that the script never seems to deal with.

There are some good things about this half of the movie, chief among them being a stellar monster makeup and body suit worn by towering actor John Kyle (billed as "Adam"), which is reminiscent of, among other things, the creature from Tobe Hooper's FUNHOUSE.  Director La Monte pulls off a really effective intro to the beast when one of the instructors suddenly encounters him face-to-face in a dark basement and is killed via some good old-fashioned gore effects. 

Kyle continues to be a menacing presence throughout, and some of the action manages to generate moderate suspense here and there.  There's a twist later in the story that's not too hard to figure out--even I saw it coming without really thinking about it--and the film ends with another surprise that isn't all that stunning. 

The DVD from Indican Pictures is in 16x9 widescreen with Dolby sound.  No subtitles.  Extras include a behind-the-scenes featurette, deleted scenes, a blooper reel, and a trailer. 

If the entire movie were as good as the first half, I would give THE TENANT a fairly strong recommendation.  The second half, though, is just by-the-numbers stuff that's hardly any better than the cheapo stalker flicks we used to rent back in the 80s.  If you happen to find yourself similarly conflicted sometime, this just might be the movie to fit your mood.

Buy it at


No comments: