A simple man, Dr. Walter Newman, has high aspirations to cure all disease through genetic manipulation. His obsession with his mission draws him deeper into his own dark world, distracting him from his wife Olivia and from his responsibilities to his patients at the Edgewood Asylum. The doctor’s loyal but diabolical nurse, Ms. Tinsley, decides to take matters into her own hands and in secret she conducts her own experiment. When Dr. Newman realizes what has been done, a deformed creature that defies nature is created. Part human, part nightmare. Dr. Newman knows what he must do, but is it already too late?
Written and directed by Ric La Monte
Starring: J. LaRose, Michael Berryman, Bill Cobbs, Sylvia Boykin
Watching The Tenant is like watching two 45 minute episodes of Fear Itself that are somewhat interrelated… and not quite as good. The first half, after a brief scene that illustrates the murderous tendencies of the title character, takes place 28 years ago and lays the foundation for what we saw in the opening scene. The second half of the film takes place in the present day, sometime after the event in the opening scene (though apparently long enough after that the blood has dried).
This approach was interesting, but it could have been implemented so much better. The first half had some real human emotion. A doctor at a psychiatric ward, who is passionately pursuing his work in genetics, albeit with questionable ethical methods, puts his research on hiatus to attend to his pregnant wife. His assistant, who is passionate about the doctor’s work, doesn’t stop the research and an inhuman being is the result.
In the second half, we see that the assistant (who, 28 years later, hasn’t aged a day…I mean they didn’t even try…) is visiting the now closed (condemned) psychiatric ward to attend to the “thing” that was born all those years ago. Now we see a van full of teenage deaf girls (out on a field trip?) escorted by some people who can hear, and an ex con with a REALLY bad attitude (he calls the deaf girls dummies) driving them around…because ex cons with bad attitudes are the primary candidates for such a position. Now the van gets a flat…in a thunderstorm…right next to the psychiatric ward. So now they drive to the ward for shelter (continuity alert: they had the driver shimmy the wheel to simulate a flat tire, while filming all four tires being fully inflated.) The rest is agonizingly slow and predictable. Even the twist at the end is such a far stretch that I almost didn’t finish the movie.
I think that an immensely more effective way of telling this story would have been to tell the entire thing from the present day, interspersing what happened all those years ago at specific intervals with flashbacks. If they would have made the revelations of both timeframes kind of reveal themselves at the same time, it would have made the film more cohesive and more enjoyable to watch. I know this approach isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but it certainly would have been effective, and alleviated the painfully drawn out scenes of the second half.
Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes, 1977; One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, 1975) is in the film, and that’s always awesome. So is veteran actor Bill Cobbs (Night at the Museum, 2006; as well as almost everything on television for the past 40 years.) And J. LaRose plays the ex con who hates deaf people. He was the guy who got ripped apart in Saw III. Long story short is that I wanted to enjoy this movie more than I did. Unfortunately it seemed like it was thrown together without much thought to the final product. The elements were there, it just wasn’t structured well.
The Tenant (2010)