Film Review: The Resort is a small-scale horror film that’s surprisingly gory

There’s nothing particularly original about The Resort.  In some manner hoping to be a type of The Shining-in-Hawaii set-up, Taylor Chien‘s supernatural scarer at least doesn’t tread on the expected genre trope of the found footage angle – something that this type of narrative could easily have adopted.

A film that unfortunately lets itself down by eliminating tension from its jumping-off point by presenting its story in flashbacks – the one surviving character relaying the events of the film means we already know someone’s getting out of this alive – The Resort can’t help but feel it’s constantly at a disadvantage, with both an element of its tension ruptured and its presentation of a narrative we are all too familiar with.

That being said, for all of The Resort‘s flaws – which also includes an eerily light running time of 70 minutes that still doesn’t force urgency in its plotting – Chien at least has the smarts to utilise the film’s location of an actual abandoned resort in the outskirts of Hawaii, peppering it with fine, if stereotypical, performances and some practical effects that are surprisingly gory.

What leads our impossibly attractive cast to titular resort, I hear you ask? Well, it all starts with aspiring writer Lex (Bianca Haase), a paranormal enthusiast who’s hoping her latest work can focus on an abandoned hotel on the Hawaiian island of Kilahuna.  Legend surrounding the defunct resort lead to an entity known as “The Half-Faced Girl”, and it’s this Ring-adjacent spirit that has led the island to be an off-limits habitat for both locals and visitors.

With Lex’s birthday on the horizon, and this being a horror movie and all, it only makes sense that her close knit group of friends – douchey archetype Sam (Michael Vlamis), insta-queen Bree (Michelle Randolph), and likeable man-mountain Chris (Brock O’Hurn) – surprise her with a trip to the island so she can research her supernatural subject a little further.  What could possibly go wrong?

Given that The Half-Faced Girl hones the potential to be an imposing villainous force, it’s a shame that Chien’s script fails to properly utilise her lore, instead spending the bulk of the running time with the quartet, frolicking in near-by water features and establishing semi-relationships.  Perhaps in his intention to place more of a focus on his characters rather than let the film be driven by its horror basis, Chien undoes The Resort with its final 20 minutes amping up the intensity that feels a little jarring given his slow-burn approach.

As jarring as this tonal shift is, my word does The Resort find its horror footing, shifting from standard ghost fare to gory set pieces that delight in the benefits of practical effects; CGI be damned when a literal face peel and a head caving are executed with such gruesome glee.  Additionally, as much as each character panders to the archetype of their description – Vlamis and Rudolph the biggest culprits – the performances are better than most of these low-budgeted horror outings are afforded, with O’Hurn especially organic as the group’s most affable member.

Whilst not all of The Resort‘s sins are forgiven – and its ending certainly caters to the expectation of “the final scare” – a commitment to its violent effects, some agreeable performances, and suitable locations at least mean this small scale horror offering can pass the time without any offence intended.

TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)

The Resort is available to rent and/or buy on DVD and digital in Australia from July 21st, 2021.

The Resort was originally reviewed in conjunction with its North American release in April.

Peter Gray

Film critic with a penchant for Dwayne Johnson, Jason Momoa, Michelle Pfeiffer and horror movies, harbouring the desire to be a face of entertainment news.

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