“The Inhabitant” – Legendary [MOVIE REVIEW]

Odessa A'zion as Tara in "The Inhabitant." Photo courtesy of Lionsgate and Gravitas Ventures.

Horror is most assuredly not my genre, but good films are. Writer Kevin Bachar and director Jerren Lauder have made a film that transcends genre and finds a way to layer psychology, teen angst, and family drama into the fright.

The story of Lizzie Borden and her axe murders are at the heart and soul of “The Inhabitant.” Legend has it that the curse of Lizzie has been passed down through her descendents in Fall River, Massachusetts, site of the original murders. There have been many mysterious deaths and supernatural events over the years. We are about to see more.

Odessa A’zion as Tara in “The Inhabitant.” Photo courtesy of Lionsgate and Gravitas Ventures.

Tara, the teenage daughter of Emily and Ben, a descendent of the Bordens through her mother, has recently been haunted by visions of a woman in an ethereal white dress, roaming the halls of her home in Fall River. Tara, unable to shake the visions, has been having difficulties of late. The wife of the child she has been babysitting has recently disappeared. Her teammate on the soccer team who has been bullying her on the field, goes missing. Her boyfriend is about to leave for Stanford, causing her no end of angst. Tara is becoming unhinged. 

Tara’s dreams seem so lifelike. In them she sees herself bludgeoning her baby brother. She is increasingly worried that she will end up like her mother’s sister, confined to an institution for the insane for killing her infant with a bat many years ago. Her mother, father, and younger brother are all supportive and try to comfort her but her feelings of malaise are only increasing.

“The Inhabitant” builds tension as it becomes more and more difficult to separate Tara’s dreams from reality, especially when some of what she dreams comes true. Her counselor at school tries to be helpful but a diagnosis of mental illness is not what this teenager wants to hear. The more she reads about Lizzie Borden the more upset and unbalanced she becomes.

Dermot Mulroney as the father in “The Inhabitant.” Photo courtesy of Lionsgate and Gravitas Ventures.

What makes this film stand out is the way the writer and director have woven the supernatural into a tale of teen angst. Tara is, to a great degree, a normal teenager facing separation anxiety, mean girls, and sexual frustration. “The Inhabitant” is a psychological thriller with supernatural overtones that delves into the psychological underpinnings of an insecure teenager. It works on all levels. 

I’ve already revealed too much because this fine film deserves to be discovered fresh. Suffice it to say that the writing, directing, production values, and acting are all first rate. Cinematographer Brian Sowell works with a dark palette. Even the day shots portend darkness. There is nothing in the credits of director Jerren Lauder indicating he would be capable of elevating a B-movie horror film to an A-list psychological thriller. The same is even more true of writer Kevin Bachar whose previous credits were as a cinematographer on nature films. And yet that is exactly what they did.

Leslie Bibb as the mother in “The Inhabitant.” Photo courtesy of Lionsgate and Gravitas Ventures.

Leslie Bibb as the mom, Emily, and Dermot Mulroney as the dad, Ben, are the sympathetic anchors of the story. Supportive of their daughter, concerned for her welfare, they draw the audience into the family life that seems to be falling apart for their daughter Tara. There is no “Grand Guignol” in their acting. They are solid, sympathetic, and totally believable.

The true star, on whom the weight of this movie rests, is Odessa A’zion as Tara. A true find and breakout star. She allows you to see her fright and confusion. She knows that it is insane to believe the visions she is getting. A’zion conveys that teenage distress at her world seemingly collapsing but recognizing that it may all be a mind game she is playing on herself. A’zion is a major talent, holding her own with the veterans who play her parents, and pulling us in to her anxiety.

“The Inhabitant” is a satisfying journey into the dark side of events that may or may not be happening. Make sure to breathe before the film starts because it will be hard to catch a breath after it begins.

Opening October 7 on VOD.



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