The Lodger


by Johnny Web (Uncle Scoopy; Greg Wroblewski)

The Lodger is a textbook example of an anachronistically inappropriate interpretation of a vintage story. It's about a series of murders similar to those of Jack the Ripper. A couple takes in a mysterious lodger, and his arrival coincides with a brutal series of killings. The novel, written by a Londoner named Marie Belloc Lowndes, took place in London and was written in 1913, when the original Jack the Ripper might still have been alive, so any resumption of Ripper-style homicides carried an implicit special terror that the killer might not be a copycat, but the Ripper himself, still wandering through London 25 years after his first spate of killings.

The story has been made into five movies:

The first two, like the book, located the story in London during a period of Ripper-style murders. The 1944 and 1953 versions took the Ripper connection to the next level. They actually located the story in England in 1888 and suggested that the mysterious lodger might have been THE Jack the Ripper. All of those were sensible adaptations

This new one is not.

It just doesn't make sense to bring some stories into modern times. The best example from a major director would be Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. The story made sense when it was located in Vienna between the two wars. The doctor's blind rage at his wife's imaginary infidelity is something completely believable from a man living in 1920 Austria, and the unverifiable disappearance of the pianist was credible in a world without cars and telephones. For reasons clear only to him, Kubrick chose to keep the story exactly the same, but to locate the action in New York in the 1990s, where the pianist's safety could have been ascertained immediately with a phone call, and the doctor's response to his wife's confession seems like a moronic overreaction from a man who must have been smart enough to get through medical school, and must have studied modern psychology while he was there. Moreover, we live in a world where everyone seems to "share" too damned much, and no highly educated man would be surprised to hear his wife confess to lurid but unfulfilled fantasies about other men.

The Lodger poses a similar inherent problem for a movie adaptation. The people who made the previous four versions of this story realized that it really needs to take place in the distant past in London in order to be effective. Relocating the story to modern times in L.A. simply doesn't work, for many reasons.

* First, the original Ripper is long dead, so the story has to be about a copycat, which removes an important layer of terror.

* Second, prostitutes are not likely to walk alone through deserted city streets in modern cities.

a. Not many streets in Los Angeles, where this story takes place, are deserted to begin with.

b. Prostitutes need customers, and deserted streets don't provide any. Hookers look for maximum traffic locations, just like the guys who build gas stations and convenience stores.

c. Furthermore, 'tutes don't walk through deserted areas of L.A. to get to the congested areas where they hawk their wares. Hell, nobody walks anywhere in cities like L.A. or Dallas. Everyone uses vehicular transportation.

* Third, contemporary Los Angeles is not filled with fog, dark corners, hidden medieval courtyards, or constant atmospheric rain.

I could continue in this vein, but you already see the problems inherent in a modern interpretation. It all boils down to this: relocating the story to latter day L.A. not only lacks credibility (where the hell would he even find a public street where he could kill and eviscerate prostitutes without witnesses?), but strips away every element of atmosphere and mystery that could make the story into a worthwhile movie to begin with.

Which means I don't need to write much more. Making this movie was a really bad idea.

Sadly, the execution is just as bad. To replace what they lost with the modernization, the film's creators had to add all sorts of extra wrinkles and twists and some absurd red herrings, like a suggestion that the investigating detective is the killer. All of that fol-de-rol leads to a resolution which makes no sense when one reviews what has been seen earlier, and even that is trumped by a logic-defying post-resolution epilogue that I still can't figure out. And those elements were not the worst parts of the script because they were at least relevant to the story. The worst material consists of irrelevant sub-plots which were introduced and dropped without ever having any significance of any kind. There are various elements of the cop's personal life, for example, which are simply not germane to the narrative. They seem to come from a separate movie.

The only real mystery which needs to be explained in this film is how such talented people as Alfred Molina and Hope Davis (and others!) got talked into working in it. Actually, I can understand why Davis was tempted, because the landlady's part is a really juicy role which was a perfect match for her range of abilities, and she did a great job. She manages to be sexy and vulnerable and crazy, and is the film's only redeeming grace. But Molina should have known better. He's a terrific performer, but what in the world made him think he was the right guy to play a hard-ass, workaholic L.A. cop?


* widescreen anamorphic

* whatever







17 (of 100)







5.1 IMDB summary (of 10)







According to The Village Voice, the film opened January 23, 2009 at exactly one theater in NYC.

(They hated it.) "The Lodger lumbers its way to a final twist so anticlimactic and silly as to warrant an incredulous titter."






  • Jillian Difusco and Jennifer Webb are naked as corpses. Difusco's scene includes a distant full frontal. Webb's is topless.

    Hope Davis did not get naked, but her breasts looked great in a wet t-shirt, and her bottom looked great in a nightie. As mentioned, Hope's performance and her near-nudity were the only good things in this film. Sample below.




Our Grade:

If you are not familiar with our grading system, you need to read the explanation, because the grading is not linear. For example, by our definition, a C is solid and a C+ is a VERY good movie. There are very few Bs and As. Based on our descriptive system, this film is a:


I would agree with the abysmal 17 at Metacritic were it not for Hope Davis's performance. Everything else is a mess. But she does make the film barely watchable. The IMDb score of 5.1 gives you the right idea.