Massive Ego Productions // 2009 // 95 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Daniel Carlton (Retired) // April 2nd, 2010
He's stuck with the tenants from Hell.
The Landlord is proof that a good film can be created without the luxury of a lavish budget. A clever story combined with quality CG effects make for a delightfully comedic indie-horror film.
Tyler is the landlord of a beautiful apartment building in which he has no problem finding tenants. However, he does have a problem keeping tenants for more than a few weeks since the apartment is also inhabited by two demons, Rabisu and Lamashtu. These demons can't help but feast on the residents, causing Tyler much aggravation month after month. Along comes Donna, a single woman who catches the eye of Tyler, but the demons have special plans for Donna and her unborn child. Tyler manages to keep the demons at bay for awhile, but before long, their demands cause more trouble than he can deal with.
With the help of several credit cards, director Emil Hyde managed to construct a humorous black comedy for a measly $22,000. Like Shaun of the Dead, The Landlord excels in its ability to poke fun at the genre it is derived from, and since a huge budget was not an option, Hyde successfully relied on a witty script to deliver the punch. Thanks to some genuinely clever and strange scenarios, The Landlord is one of the better low budget films I've seen in awhile. Where else can we see a demon ordering a juice extractor from an infomercial with hopes of making human jerky?
The Landlord at no point tries to provide any real scares, as it is a comedy through and through. Within the first few minutes, the demons possess one of the new tenants, causing him to slay his wife and take his own life shortly thereafter. The next scene involves Tyler (Derek Dziak) arguing with Rabisu (Rom Barkhordar) about letting the tenants stay alive at least long enough to cover the rent. Rabisu's hilarious response is, "We are immortal. Time means nothing to us." Clever lines like this one make The Landlord a delight to view, and Rom Barkhordar (whose real name sounds unearthly) steals the show with his deadpan delivery. The back and forth dialogue between Rabisu and Tyler provides some of the best scenes in the film. Half of the banter revolves around Tyler's need to dispose of leftover body parts, which is of little concern to the demons.
The most impressive part of The Landlord might have to be the special effects. It is evident that much time and effort were put into the effects work and the style perfectly complemented the film's independent nature. I certainly wasn't expecting an Industrial Light and Magic level of CG, but I also didn't expect the visuals to be as strong as they were. Everything from teleporting demons to ultra-pink force fields looked downright amazing when considering the shoestring budget. Again, we are talking about a film in which the entire budget was probably less than one day's catering bill on 2012.
As strong as the lead actors and effects are, the screenplay falls short because of an unnecessary subplot involving Tyler's sister Amy, the owner of the apartment building. Amy is a corrupt cop, who along with her partner, is constantly making back-alley deals involving drugs and arranged hits with the local gang of vampires. I kept waiting for this storyline to somehow come together with Tyler's storyline, but it never did. She was fully aware of the demons living in the house, but that was the extent of the different stories being tied together. At one point, Tyler even begged his sister to help get rid of two detectives that were investigating the missing tenants, but even that didn't amount to anything. Instead, it just made for an extraneous scene that led into another shady deal. The film would have worked better had the entire plotline with his sister been left out, even if it would have shaved twenty-five minutes off of the running time. That isn't necessarily a bad thing.
For an indie release, the amount of extras on The Landlord is more than one would expect. We are treated to a smorgasbord of special features including an audio commentary, featurettes, trailers, deleted scenes, a short film, and to top it all off, a drinking game. That's right, a drinking game, of all things. To participate in the drinking game, simply turn on the drinking game subtitles and take a drink when someone dies, someone teleports, or when the evil symbol appears. Someone fill me in if such a special feature has appeared on any other DVD. This could be a first. As far as the commentary, the director and three of the lead actors provide a tone as light-hearted as the film itself. As with most commentaries, they discuss the making of various scenes and what it was like working on the film. Nothing new, but worth a listen if you liked the film.
It's hard to compete with films like Zombieland and Shaun of the Dead in the genre of horror comedies, but considering the almost non-existent budget, The Landlord does okay. Because of the secondary plotline, the screenplay as a whole isn't as tight as it could be, but the originality of the main storyline deserves much applause.
Not guilty, just make sure you don't rent a room in this building.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Massive Ego Productions
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 95 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Deleted Scenes
* Drinking Game
* Short Film
* Official Site