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Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea Review

The dark figure of a landlady stands menacing, with a hand against the wall, in the film Hemet, or the Landlady Don't Drink Tea

As a new satirical dark comedy, Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea, offers a reflection and critique of our current society.

“What do you expect when your landlord is a cold heartless b*tch?” Is one of the first lines in Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea, and pretty much the whole premise of the film. In a world where we often hear real-life horror stories of evil landlords who mistreat their tenants on a daily basis, I immediately thought this movie had a promising premise to start its dark comedy horror story. It is a story that many people in the audience can probably relate to at least on some level: after all, everyone I know has at least one story to tell about a bad experience with a landlord.

Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea is set in the city of Hemet in Riverside County, California. While the place may be real, and its premise may ring true to many of us in the audience, the story is very much rooted in fiction. Set during an unspecified epidemic, the film follows a group of tenants, including Rosie Perkins (Kimberly Weinberger) who has recently moved in, as they are pitted against each other by their tyrannical landlady Liz Tophan-Myrtle (Brian Patrick Butler) as a web of murder and paranoia starts to form around them.

Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea is at its best when it deals with the relationships and dynamics in the flat, as we see all the tenants fight with each other in a time of crisis that seems to bring out the worst in all of them. As we see them turning against each other at every chance they get, the film seems to ask us whether or not there is space for true friendship in a society dominated by terror and capitalistic desires. The power dynamics are also fascinating as they relate to society as a whole, which this film could have been a powerful metaphor for, but a lot of its commentary ultimately feels too on the nose and overly spelt out for the audience.

I was fascinated with the premise of Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea, the self-contained environment of the flat provides a great setup for the tense atmosphere that the movie creates. I also thought some of the acting was good: Kimberly Weinberger is very impressive as Rosie and managed to successfully deliver even the weakest lines of the film, making us root for her character from the very beginning to the very end of the movie. While some of it is successful and promising, the movie does not impress with its storytelling.

A man shouts in the film Hemet, or the Landlady Don't Drink Tea
Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea (Charybdis Pictures)

It very much feels like Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea is one of those films that is determined to bite more than it can chew. The film wants to do so much, part gory horror and part social critique with elements of apocalyptic movies and dark comedies in them, but fails to deliver each of these properly. Because sometimes, less really is more. If Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea had focused on one primary element, the social critique, for example, as it is the most evident one from its premise, it could have been a much better film.

A lot of Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea could have landed a lot better if its characters had been explored more, but by the time the film ends we know little to nothing about them and, therefore, find it hard to care about what happens to them and whether they live or die. On the other hand, Rosie is probably the only character we can actually empathise with, as we know more about who she is, but it is still not enough. So much of the film’s plot revolves around Rosie and Liz that it would have been nice to explore their backstories properly, particularly when it comes to the villain of the film.

The most disappointing aspect of Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea was that I thought it could have done a lot more with its original idea. Instead, the film is mostly forgettable, if not for a few merits in the acting and plot. Surely, there might be some people who enjoy this film a lot more than I did: if you like your horror movies to be strange, and gory, but with a touch of reality in them, then this movie might just be your cup of tea, but then again there are much better dark comedy satirical films out there if that is what you are after.

Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea was screened at the Oceanside International Film Festival on February 24, 2024.

Hemet, or the Landlady Don’t Drink Tea: Trailer (Charybdis Pictures)
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