There’s a good reason that so many independent horror films take place in an isolated location that’s populated by only a handful of characters: because the fewer “moving parts” a low-budget producer has to worry about, the lower the odds of something going irrevocably wrong. If you have A) a creepy location, B) a decent premise, and C) a handful of hard-working actors, you have a solid chance of banging out something at least halfway intriguing. Such is (mostly) the case with In Residence, a 61-minute “calling card” sort of horror flick from first-time director (and, I should add, personal friend) Tim Buel.
We open with a guy breaking into an empty house, and it quickly becomes clear that there’s something more malevolent afoot than just a simple burglary. Then we skip ahead a bit to meet Connor (Connor J. Smith). who is tasked with putting his late mother’s estate in order. He arrives at his mother’s house (the same house that was being robbed in the first scene, of course) and invites his friends, Jessie (Emma Buel) and Alex (co-writer/producer Cody Rhyse), to keep him company as he tries to pack up his mother’s belongings. Also of course the house is haunted. This is a horror movie, after all.
And while In Residence is most definitely a low-key, chat-heavy, and generally familiar horror movie, it also earns some points in the departments of mood, character, and restraint. It should come as no surprise to learn that Connor’s mother had some seriously unpleasant skeletons in her closet prior to her passing – which partially explains why Jessie keeps seeing mysterious figures in the dead of night. Nothing too fancy or shocking or revolutionary; just a laid-back, low-budget haunted house story with three generally interesting characters, a pretty creepy back-story, a few nice jolts, and a quietly satisfying finale in which we discover what that damn burglar was looking for.
Given its abbreviated running time, generally sedate presentation, and no-frills (yet effective) production value, In Residence might be more appealing to aspiring filmmakers than it would be to anyone looking for a non-stop scare-a-thon or a monster-laden gore-fest. I may be slightly biased (in that I’ve known Mr. Buel for several years) but there’s more than enough promise in In Residence to make me think these filmmakers could do really nice work, given a slightly more novel premise and a considerably larger budget.
– Scott Weinberg
IN RESIDENCE is available for 99p (rent/stream) or £3.99 (download) here