The Resort takes on a well-traversed horror plot, but does little to distinguish itself from other similar films.
A group of young people sneak into an abandoned building and/or area and bad things happen. Sound familiar? This description can be used to describe a lot of films and media. It’s also a trope that can be seen in things like The Evil Dead, Cabin in the Woods, Trick R Treat, the second season of American Horror Story, and Korn’s music video for their song “Freak on a Leash.” Hell, this even applies to Willy’s Wonderland, a movie I reviewed earlier this year! Needless to say, this is a pretty common trope in horror. So if you’re going to be adding your next creative project to the list of visual media that use it, my hope is that you’re going to do something interesting with it. Enter director and screenwriter Taylor Chien’s most recent offering, The Resort, another new movie featuring young people sneaking into places they should not be.
The Resort follows Lex (Bianca Haase), an author who writes about the supernatural, and is in need of some inspiration for her next book. So her friends Chris (Brock O’Hurn), Bree (Michelle Randolph), and Sam (Michael Vlamis) surprise her for her birthday with a trip to an abandoned resort on a remote Hawaiian island that’s supposedly haunted by the vengeful spirit of a little girl who died there… How thoughtful.
Immediately, from the beginning, a place where The Resort struggles is its writing. First, the dialogue feels like it could have benefitted from another draft or two. The framing device already sets us up for a lot of exposition, but then the way we learn about the characters is also through more exposition: instead of showing us character actions that give us insight into who these people are, most of their respective characterizations come from expository dialogue. There’s a scene where they prompt each other with the question, “What do you believe?” and use it as an occasion to monologue one by one regarding their respective opinions and views of the supernatural. The Resort is already a short movie, and when so much time is spent on exposition- dumps, you start to worry if the movie has enough substance to sustain itself.
This brings me to another issue, which is the pacing: The Resort has a seventy-five minute runtime, but the horror you signed up for doesn’t show up until almost fifty minutes in. Heck, the main characters don’t even arrive at the titular resort until about halfway through the movie. This gives us a very long first act that doesn’t present any real conflict until two thirds of the way through the film. To the film’s credit, once it actually becomes a horror movie, it becomes much more interesting: the pace certainly picks up and finally gives us actual stakes so we can really start to get invested in the characters and their survival. Getting there just takes so long, and the movie spends so little time delivering the promised action and scares that you can’t help but feel a bit short-changed with the payoff. I appreciate that The Resort tries to flesh out its protagonists, something not all slasher films do, but it takes such a big portion of the film’s length for the plot to get going that by the time the movie becomes interesting, they have to start wrapping it up.
There are also some small plot points that may leave you scratching your head. For example, I spent a lot of time wondering, “Why does this abandoned resort have security guards? It’s abandoned. That implies that no one lives or works here, so why would it need a security patrol for an empty building? Why are they only here at night? Is this place not worth guarding during the day? Who is paying them? Are there investors with a vested interest in this abandoned resort, and thus thought it necessitated a security detail? I’ve never seen an abandoned anything with security guards.” Though you may not get hung up on things like this as much as I do, there are a few plot decisions that will quickly stop making sense if you think about it for more than a few seconds. I picked this one specifically because it’s the film’s first scene, and more or less sets up your expectations going forward.
The Resort’s technical aspect is… inconsistent. On one hand, I’m a sucker for nature shots, and there are some genuinely lovely establishing and wide shots showcasing the Hawaiian islands on which the film is set. On other hand, the lighting ranges from adequate to darker than I think Chien was intending- woe is me, another too-dark horror movie. And the ghost makeup is… not very good. When you get quick cuts with intense lighting, you don’t really notice, but when the camera lingers on the ghosts’ faces for a long time, you start to see that the ghosts kind of looks like they’re just people wearing Halloween costumes. The design that went into creating the ghosts is not bad at all; there are some good ideas in there, but the execution is disappointing.
Honestly, I think that can more or less sum up this movie: there are some good ideas in there, but the execution is disappointing. I think remote islands are a great setting for horror movies as they allow for filmmakers to play with themes of isolation away from civilization, fear of the unknown, and being trapped in a contained space without a clear plan of escape. I don’t think The Resort, however, was realized as effectively as it could have been. At least it doesn’t use shaky cam, so credit where it’s due, I suppose.
The Resort will be released on Digital and on Demand from 30th April, 2021. The film will be available on Sky Store, Virgin, iTunes, Amazon, Microsoft Store, Google Play, and Chili.