Review by Tatiana Miranda
The infamous murder case that inspired a nursery rhyme and countless conspiracy theories now takes center stage in the film The Inhabitant, where Lizzie Borden's descendants are tormented by her ghost. Odessa A'zion, who is best known for her role in Netflix's Grand Army, stars in The Inhabitant as Tara, a teenage girl related to the Bordens on her mother's side. While she first appears to be your average seventeen-year-old, with her Stanford-bound boyfriend, soccer team bullies, and a dysfunctional family, it becomes increasingly clear that not everything is as it seems. Murderous visions begin to plague her mind, and the supposed Borden curse comes to light as Tara reflects on recent disappearances and her family ties.
Lizzie Borden and the murders of her father and stepmother have been the center of fiction ever since the murders occurred, so it's no surprise that 130 years later, a new telling of the tale would arrive in The Inhabitant. While it's not necessarily the story of Lizzie Borden's infamy, as it subjects its overview to fit within the first few minutes of the film, Borden's hometown and house (plus its subsequent reference as a tourist attraction) play a large role in the plot and setting. References to her signature murder weapon, an axe, and theorized motives are abundant. Still, the film never tries to cause any doubt about the murderer but instead regards Lizzie's involvement as fact.
For true crime fans fascinated with the case, the basis of The Inhabitant might seem appealing, but below all of its surface-level knowledge of the Bordens, Lizzie and the case are nothing more than a supernatural plot device used to justify lackluster jump scares and plot twists. Beyond the murderous impulses Tara is dealing with, she also is part of a detective investigation regarding a missing woman she used to babysit for. On top of that, her best friend is secretly in love with her and uses graphic self-harm to cope. At times, The Inhabitant makes the viewer wonder, "What is going on?" before jumping to a scene where Dermot Mulroney randomly appears incredibly sad and pensive.
Perhaps the most disappointing thing about The Inhabitant's flaws is that it is filled with the potential to be a new film cataloged in the library of the monstrous feminine archetype. Between Tara's school conflicts, motherly role toward her younger siblings, and parental issues, her fantasies of murder make sense for her character as she navigates her coming of age. Underlying The Inhabitant is the tonal combination of horror and girlhood found in movies such as Carrie, Ginger Snaps, and Jennifer's Body, yet the film never takes that leap and instead chalks it up to the mysterious curse the women in her family are burdened with.
Even with its stellar cast and intriguing plot, The Inhabitant is nothing original for horror movies and especially nothing exciting in terms of stories about Lizzie Borden. With its lost potential and odd commentary on mental health, The Inhabitant is likely a horror movie to skip this Halloween.
The Inhabitant is released in theaters on October 7th.