Writer and Director: Taylor Chien
Smug teenagers in a haunted house is a popular horror movie trope and if ain’t broke… Taylor Chien’s new film The Resort coming to digital download relocates the scary house to an abandoned leisure complex on a remote island, but the smug teenagers remain the same and across 70-minutes the pert cheerleader-type and her cynical friends run through the horror-playbook.
For a book she is planning Alexandra (knows as Lex) convinces her friends to take a daytrip to a remote island where mysterious hauntings have been reported at the deserted Resort. With only a few hours before catching the boat home, Sam, Bree and Chris join Lex on a tour of the luscious scenery but with time running out, they must head to the Resort as night falls.
The girls are beautiful and the boys are suitably macho and sarcastic. When Bree prophetically claims “I feel if we go on holiday with these d-bags we’ll end up on body bags” the audience knows to settle-in for a film that ticks all the horror boxes without demanding too much from the viewer – just sit back and let the slightly mechanical tricks wash over you.
Chien employs a flashback approach as we see the now traumatised Lex confined to a hospital bed having escaped some terrible event that took the lives of her three friends without smudging her make-up or disarranging her perfect hair. All the context we need is revealed in an expositional 10-minutes that has the friends talking about tribal battles, curses and the terrifying ‘half-faced girl’.
After a Jurassic Park-like helicopter ride to the island, during which time Chien captures some lovely scenic shots, the ticking clock is introduced – the pals have just six hours to find what they came for or risk being stranded. During a conversation between Lex and Sam, Chien betrays some inexperience as characters in the background speak loud enough for their dialogue to intrude on the foregrounded interaction although this only happens once. Anyway, the director quickly gets distracted by girls in bikinis and micro-shorts as the group frolic by a waterfall.
Eventually the gang head to the Resort which is well staged, run down and overgrown enough to look creepy but with a hint of its former sheen that would have made it a prime destination. The pacing and tension notably pick-up after about 45-minutes as darkness brings fresh challenges and the now disorientated teenagers are inevitably picked-off one-by-one.
Chien spends a long time implying the horror to come, employing a creepy shadow or two, a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it vision and an imposing soundscape which is well created by Nick Ainsworth mixing unnerving effects with composition to create a sense of foreboding. As these psychological techniques give way to visual representations of the threat and its consequences, The Resort goes for gross rather than terrifying.
Bianca Haase is all perky naivety as the intrepid Lex, a slightly unconvincing writer who rolls her eyes at the practical beliefs of her friends. Michelle Randolph has nothing to do as Bree except look pretty and ditzy in minimal clothing – little more than a 90s horror and romcom cliché – while Michael Vlamis as the pessimistic and wisecracking Sam and Brock O’Hurn’s cool Chris are as caricatured as the female creations.
Chien’s film is really a horror-by-numbers that uses The Blair Witch Project in particular as its reference point as a journey into unknown territory and a particular haunted location goes horribly wrong. Too often though any tension that The Resort generates ebbs away with the formulaic choices and out-of-date characterisation.
Released on digital download and on demand from 30 April 2021