Taylor Chien’s “The Resort” is dropping in select theaters and On Demand this week and despite the familiarity of its plot-line, the potential of a horror flick being shot at an abandoned hotel resort in Hawaii was certainly an enticing backdrop for ghostly terror. But does it all come together to equal a frightening story of adventure seeking gone wrong? Or does it result in yet another forgettable mash-up of cardboard characters and recycled plot beats?
Where “The Resort” Thrives
Like I said, the set-up is more than enough to equal some tension filled paranormal horror. Finding a dormant resort in Hawaii and getting to use it as you wish, is a great playground for suspense. And the first-act, despite feeling routine, does build a modest element of intrigue. The camerawork from Chien captures the vastness of the location nicely as the characters wander around. You know terrible things are to come, and the anticipation does do a good job of pulling you into the story with the group of adventurers searching for evidence of this resort’s haunted legend.
So, for a film like this where you can presume the outcome well in advance. I thought the opening did well at creating a fun level of engagement. As I watched there was certainly a curiosity as to how this story would get to its conclusion which was actually enjoyable. This allure continues into the middle-act as night falls and the activity begins to escalate. Simple things like the movement of a shadow, or birds in the sky, were able to create genuine uneasiness that I enjoyed. Subtle but efficient uneasiness that you surely want from a movie like this.
Where “The Resort” Falters
From there unfortunately the story, and subsequently the entertainment along with it begin to fall apart. The performances were serviceable. I felt they more than captured the needed emotion to bring some life to characters that on paper, were thinly written at best. There isn’t anything unique about them, but through the effort of the performances they do work enough for the story-line. Regardless of that, they are still far from memorable so when they get plugged into a plot-line that doesn’t lay the foundation to the lore of this resort, or the spirit they’re hunting, there isn’t much substance to invest in as the viewer.
If you don’t really care about the characters, and you can’t feel the weight of what they are up against, as the viewer, you silently wonder what the point is. You’re left with having to take the string of attempts at horror simply at face-value which greatly hinders the impact. Frightening moments are unable to land with their bland deliveries and lack of an imposing atmosphere. So, when the gore kicks in it’s more comical because of its outlandishness, than it is horrifying. It’s understandable that budgets for films like these are limited. But I think practical-effects and adding some cleverness to the story to truly incorporate this location would’ve made this a much more effective horror romp.
Final Verdict on “The Resort”
I felt this one had some potential. I think the emptiness of the location could’ve been used much more effectively because it felt like it was going through the motions. It provides a solid opening act, but from there it becomes increasingly forgettable. I think the story should’ve been tailored more to this resort to use its already rundown facade to its advantage. I think that being given the opportunity to use this entire resort should’ve resulted in a supernatural thriller that relied on lighting, shadows, sound, and its natural aesthetic to slowly build the tension to a wild impactful closing. Instead, it took its time recycling genre tropes early, then stepped on the gas late to fit all its horror-filled antics into the 75-minute run-time.
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