The Landlord is an independent horror/comedy about a young man who inherits a demon-infested apartment building from his devil-worshiping parents, and with it the job of finding new tenants for the demons to devour. The movie has screened at film festivals and horror conventions in the US and UK, and the DVD will be released in North America by Tempe Home Video on May 25th, 2010.
The Landlord follows a young slacker who inherits a demon-infested apartment building from his devil-worshipping parents, and with it the job of finding new tenants for the demons to devour and cleaning up the mess when they’re done. Tyler Czarnecki is the owner of an apartment building haunted by a pair of flesh-eating Babylonian demons who eat the tenants and treat Tyler as their slave. While he clearly resents his lot, Tyler limits his rebellion to grumbling to Rabisu, the lesser of the demons and, from all appearances, Tyler’s only real friend. Tyler’s sister Amy, a police officer, is indifferent to his plight – or at least too distracted by her shady dealings with the local gang of vampires to get involved. However, the status quo is upset when an attractive young woman named Donna moves into Tyler’s building. While Donna is clearly on the run from something, Tyler takes a liking to her, and decides to save her from becoming the demons’ next meal.
Special Prize : Dark Carnival Film Festival
Delta Award Nominee (Best Amateur Film) : Festival of Fantastic Films
Best Actress Nominee (Michelle Courvais) : Dark Carnival Film Festival
Official Selection : Horror Hound Film Festival, Crypticon Minneapolis, Fright Night Film Festival, 28 Hours Later Film Festival, Zombie Con X, Madison Horror Film Festival, Con-Tamination, ValleyCon, Dark Xmas
Review by Bill Gordon
The Landlord (2009)
Directed by: Emil Hyde
Starring: Derek Dziak, Rom Barkhordar, Michelle Courvais, Erin Myers, Rob McLean, Ezekiel Brown, Kurt Ehrmann, Lori Myers, Amanda Cohen, Joan McGrath, Brian Amidei
(out of 4)
The Landlord is a low-budget indie horror/comedy hybrid that leans more towards the comedy side, and that works in its favor. Written and directed by Emil Hyde and filmed in Chicago, it shows how far a limited amount of funds (reportedly $22,000), hard working crew, and a clever premise can take a film. In this case, a considerable distance, resulting in a movie whose flaws are somewhat mitigated by an offbeat script and quirky characters. The movie at times plays like The Odd Couple – that is, if Felix Unger was a sympathetic drunk in the Jack Black/Brian O’Halloran mold and Oscar Madison was a 5,000 year old flesh-eating demon that he has to clean up after. At other times it’s like, I dunno – Weeds, except the main characters aren’t involved with a pot ring, it’s a ring of monsters that live in the neighborhood. The neighborhood in The Landlord is, as some characters aptly describe, a shithole, where corrupt cops are the least of its problems. Rent a room here and you might get eaten by demons, but hey – they’ve got all wood floors and gas is included in the rent!
Tyler (Derek Dziak) is the landlord of a small apartment building, half owned by his sister Amy (Michelle Courvais), a cop, who is having an affair with her partner Warren (Rob McLean). They also have some kind of deal going with a gang of street vampires (with really ugly teeth and who can walk around in daylight), which is threatening to explode out in the open. This is why Amy doesn’t hang around much anymore, so she can’t be much help to Tyler’s little problem, which involves two demons who live in the building that eat Tyler’s tenants. Being a landlord is pretty tough – dealing with deadbeats who don’t pay rent, fixing electrical and plumbing problems, figuring out how to get rid of human remains, and trying not to make the local police superstitious with all the missing people. After demon Rabisu (Rom Barkhordar) and his “master” – the dog faced demi-god Lamashtu (Lori Myers) eat a couple of yuppies, pregnant-wife-on-the-run Donna (Erin Myers) moves in, and she’s got her own personal demons to deal with. (Lots of characters in this film have personal demons – Rabisu and Lamashtu are just piling on). Things get more complicated when Rabisu kills two snooping police detectives and Donna’s asshole hubby, then, at Lamashtu’s demand, traps Donna in her apartment (until such time she has her baby, which apparently would make for a delicious snack). In the meantime, Amy’s deal with the vamps goes sour and her family is put in jeopardy (as well as the state of her marriage).
The Landlord is densely plotted, juggling two major stories at once, and although the demon/vampire strands never meet (to my disappointment), I think that the point of the film is simply to portray the lives of a brother and sister who are unfortunately cursed thanks to the idiotic actions of their devil-worshipping parents (sins of the fathers and all that). They’re stuck in two worlds – the real one and world of monsters – which have been merged into this rather absurd universe. That makes for a lot of good comedy, including one funny bit in a run down hotel, and some witty interplay between the two leads Dziak and Barkhordar. There’s a weird scene where Rabisu is eating the brains of a disembodied head like he’s eating cereal, and Tyler is trying to get him to open a portal to hell to dispose of bodies (“It’s a portal to hell, not a garbage chute!” / “Do you read ancient Sumerian? Didn’t think so!” / “Stop making fun of hell!”). There’s a running gag where poor Donna, (runaway from a Southern town somewhere) ends up in the wrong places due to her naivety- trying to rent a room in a hourly-rate dump with an internet coupon, and then showing up at a religious family planning center for an abortion). Standout performances come from Barkhordar and Courvais; Barkhordar plays Rabisu with the right notes – he’s really a nice guy who just happens to be a demon (a funny scene has him ordering a food hydrator from TV to make humans easier to eat); Courvais gives a multi-layered performance as Tyler’s sister Amy – she’s almost like an uncontrollable demon herself, a loose cannon, but tough and sexy.
It helps to view The Landlord in the right frame of mind – this isn’t a Hollywood production but an earnest indie flick made on spare change in the tradition of films like Basket Case, Street Trash, and The Blair Witch Project. Special effects are limited but strangely appropriate – the gore is low-budget but effective, and even the groovy psychdelic retro computer effects have a particular charm. Makeup effects won’t win any awards but they are adequate – in any case, the movie succeeds not on strength of visuals but on the energy of the performances and the wackiness of the plot (which, despite its trends toward irreverence, still can’t help but give its centerpiece apartment building a demise like a similar piece of real estate in Poltergeist). Maybe this is the kind of film Beetlejuice could have been, if Tim Burton didn’t feel like playing to family audiences. The Landlord is evidence of how budgetary constraints can help release creative energy.