by Evan ODell 2/19/11
Written and Directed by Emil Hyde.
The Landlord is the kind of movie that is made by people with either a passion for the genre or filmmaking or both. It’s an ultra-low-budget feature length movie. The kind of low budget movie where the cast and crew volunteered their time for free and the cost of the production went towards set design, costumes, props, meals, and perhaps absolutely necessary equipment.
So, if you’re the kind of casual horror fan that quickly dismisses low budget horror or are unfamiliar with this kind of no-budget horror movie, you might not find much to enjoy here. I’m the kind of guy that has a wide range of cinematic horror in my collection. Yet still finds time to attend the occasional underground horror film festival or be willing to pick up a horror title from a filmmaker who has a dealer’s table at a local horror con. So when I tell you looking for gems in that market is as difficult as finding the proverbial needle in a haystack, you can believe me. Because I’ve attended those fests where I found no stand outs amongst a bevy of films. Films with killers that lack any and all motivation for killing, have tired, played out locations (a rave anyone?) or with characters that lack any likeability or credibility who only serve as fodder for elaborate kill scenes. Those movies that just really try your patience.
I’m glad to say that The Landlord isn’t one of those films. The Landlord may have a hard time keeping up with its cinematic counterparts in acting, or gore, or special effects, but with the spirit of a true underdog it captured my attention and carried me along for the ride. It did that with a sound story and a rather likable demon character Rom Barkhordar as Rabisu (easily the best actor in the film).
Those are the things that work. Before I make it out to be better than it is, I want to say that these no/low budget features are never without their problems. A lot of the acting is serviceable at best. The star, Derek Dziak has the ability for comic timing, but sometimes his line reads are bad. He’s certainly not the only one either. I imagine much of the cast would have benefited immensely from more rehearsals. Though sometimes when you’re working with a cast and crew that are putting in their time for free, you get what you get in the time constraints you can get them in. The props are sometimes off the shelf Halloween decorations and look it. Rabisu’s make-up is inconsistent, especially around his neck and arms. I get that Lamashtu is a bitch, but it was a rather unfortunate choice to actually make her look like a dog-faced girl. There are plenty of interlacing errors in the movie, especially when anything onscreen is moving. And while the digital effects show more than a passing familiarity with the programs they were made on, are no more than that.
What works about the movie, and it does have a lot going for it, makes me interested to see more from the filmmakers involved. They may have been no more than students or fans when they started, but could easily land a job in video production or perhaps on other movies from what they accomplished here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made enough with this movie to be able to pay back their investors. That alone is often the measure of success in this kind of film market.
The Landlord is a comedy-horror. It is the kind of story that is set in a world where demons and vampires exist just out of sight of the normal populace. A world where vampires walk around in broad daylight thanks to dark sunglasses (I know, not as unusual in the day and age of Twilight and Being Human), where a demon in short-sleeve button up shirts with loud print designs carries on like he’s in a sitcom. A world not a lot unlike something someone might have created if fed a diet of Buffy and Angel and grew up during the home video boom. Unlike Buffy and Angel, there are no clear heroes here.
Tyler (Derek Dziak) is the landlord who has trouble making the ends meet. His tenants never hang around long enough to pay the rent. Their primary purpose is to provide dinner for two demons from hell by the names of Rabisu (Rom Barkhordar) and Lamashtu (Lori Myers) who transport in and out at will. Tyler’s sister Amy (Michelle Courvais), a cop, and her partner have a corrupt connection with vampires who feed upon junkies and provide funding for the tenement that Tyler manages. Tyler’s complicity might not hold up when he meets the new tenant, Donna (Erin Myers) who is trying to make a clean break from a bad relationship.
So what kind of fan would enjoy seeing this movie? The kind that remembers those Eighties gems that often landed unheralded at the video store and rented on the strength of their box art. Those that could enjoy a Frank Henenlotter film or remember when Full Moon Video meant you were in store for something better than what Troma or Full Moon deliver now. Maybe the kind of fan who can sit through a Syfy channel Saturday night movie or is interested in their local film festival’s midnight features. This might not measure up in terms of outright cruelty to a lot of the stuff that plays on the underground horror film festivals, but it’s a heck a lot better than much of it.
I want to give special mention to the DVD release of the film. The special features contain a 20 minute behind the scenes feature and an audio commentary that may be of interest to other low/no budget filmmakers. The cast and crew reveal stories like how members of the crew may end up in front of the camera when their onscreen counterparts fail to show up. For instance, the director has a cameo as the hotel desk manager. There is also a fun drinking game from the folks at http://www.moviecynics.com/