When reading reviews of the new horror film “The Resort” I doubt you’ll hear many critics praising it as original, fresh, or innovative. That’s because this watchable yet unremarkable indie is nothing horror fans haven’t seen many times before. Even worse, it’s hamstrung by a tiny budget and hampered by a script that doesn’t have enough ideas of its own to fill the movie’s light 70-minute running time. It does eventually find its footing but only in the final fifteen minutes or so. By that time I’m guessing a lot of people will have already checked out.
“The Resort” is written and directed by Taylor Chien. It’s simple horror premise goes like this: four friends venture to an abandoned Hawaiian resort that locals believe is haunted by a malevolent spirit. Right out of the gate a story like this comes with a certain degree of baked-in predictably. We know going to the resort is a bad idea. We know the cheerful chums are in for a terrifying surprise. And we have a good idea that not all will make it out alive. So it’s up to the filmmaker and his cast to make this fairly routine horror concept interesting. It can be done, but sadly Chien and company miss their mark.
As you might expect, “The Resort” gives us four of the horror genre’s most overused character types: the serious girl Lex (Bianca Haase), the hot blonde Bree (Michelle Randolph), the hunk Chris (Brock O’Hurn), and obnoxious loudmouth Sam (Michael Vlamis). To be fair the film does offer a couple of welcomed variations to them. For example, Chris is pretty humble and level-headed despite looking like a cover model for a Harlequin novel. And while the occasional ogling from the camera might say different, Bree isn’t the prototypical lustful hottie.
But don’t mistake those slight deviations as equalling good characters. To the film’s credit it tries to give them some depth, mainly during its draggy first 45 minutes when the group arrives at the island and then makes the hike to the resort. Along the way we learn Lex is doing research for a horror novel. Chris has the hots for her. Bree has a deep affection for selfies. And in addition to being annoying, Sam has an endless supply of booze. They all take time to share their thoughts on the paranormal and supernatural, but there’s really nothing to them for us to cling to. The characters are shallow, the performances are rough, and at times their dialogue can be hopelessly cringy.
It takes a while, but the group FINALLY arrives at the once luxurious resort. After some ill-advised exploring and some obligatory carelessness, the four encounter the spirit known as the Half-Faced Girl. Outside of one brief exposition dump, we never learn much about the ghastly apparition and we don’t spend enough time with her to understand how or why she does what she does. There is one really cool and creepy horror bit nestled in that final act. But it’s swallowed up by the film’s murky and uninspired ending that left me with even more questions than before.
The positive side of me likes to think there is a good movie trapped somewhere inside of “The Resort”. Yet I’m having a hard time convincing myself. It’s basically a well-worn idea without an ounce of new flavor. Everything in it has been done before and done better. And when you mix in bland characters, a shallow script, and practically no scares whatsoever it’s hard to find much to recommend. “The Resort” is now available on VOD.