Film Review: The Tenant

Low-budget horror movie suffers from reliance on genre clichés and undistinguished performances.

The Tenant opens with a couple of teens snooping around an apparently abandoned house that's nonetheless visited regularly by a mysterious woman. They quickly discover that the house has a tenant who doesn't like trespassers.

Cut to 28 years earlier, when the house was Edgewood Asylum, a mental hospital run by hard-drinking Dr. Walter Newman (Randy Molnar) and his wife, Olivia (Georgia Chris). But Newman isn't interested in caring for crazy people—what really interests him is his genetic research into curing birth defects (like the club foot he blames for blighting his life) in utero. When Olivia reveals that she's pregnant with twins, he promises to stop and devote himself to making the hospital profitable.

Newman does no such thing, of course; encouraged by Nurse Tinsley (Sylvia Boykin), whose interest in the mad doctor is more than professional, he continues to work on developing a serum, relying heavily on the blood of genetically damaged patient Arthur (genre stalwart Michael Berryman). The vindictive Tinsley injects Olivia with the serum, with predictable results: One baby, a girl, is born normal while the other, her brother, is a deformed monster.

After this lengthy foray into the past, we return to the present, where counselors Liz and Rob (Aerica D'Amaro and Justin Smith) are transporting a vanload of deaf teenagers through a driving storm to…well, to somewhere. They have an accident, they're out of cell-phone range and they're nearly out of gas, which makes waiting out the storm in the van problematic. So after sending their driver, sullen ex-con Jeff (J. LaRose), to check out a nearby abandoned house, they round up the teens and prepare to spend the night. And that works out as well as you'd expect, since they're not alone and quickly discover that they can't get out.

The Tenant is, to put it plainly, a terrible movie, clichéd and painfully predictable even by the standards of a genre in which sticking to the formula is generally regarded as a virtue. Its very mediocrity ensures that it's not the worst stalk-and-slash movie ever made, and a bunch of drunk, undemanding horror fans could probably find some amusement value in mocking its relentless recycling of character and story tropes older than most of the cast, right down to the "twist" ending. (Hint to horror filmmakers: It's not a twist if everyone sees it coming.) Others will want to steer clear.