Landlady (1990)

March 7, 2014 by adamsunderground

LL10College student Adam rents a room in the mansion of the beautiful but disturbing Lily, a solitary older woman who lurks about her residence, always watching him with a cold gleam in her eyes. Blowing like the winds often engulfing this secluded hilltop manor, speculation and suspicion swirl about this mysterious landlady, according to the young man’s friends.

However, when he learns how Lily has isolated herself out of fear of a violent and changing world, unassuming Adam takes pity upon this stranger obsessed with the howling winds around her home, offering to ease the possessive’s troubled loneliness. This kind gesture further ensnares the earnest lad, as his efforts for detachment go ignored by Lily.

LL3She soon scrutinizes his girlfriend, the bubbly coed Pat, after he brings her as guest in his new home. Having no qualms about prying into her boarder’s personal life, the landlady disapproves of his silly sweetheart, telling Adam she herself could teach him much more than the schoolmate. Curious, he allows the seduction, and before long, this lodger is neglecting both his studies and friends, lost in a fantasy world of Lily’s creation. Can his loved ones regain the Adam they once knew, or can this youth even halt his own descent further into a bottomless pit of sexual depravity?

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LL14

AU Score
Total Grade: A
Specialty Grade
Screenplay F
Acting A
Cinematography A
Film Editing A
Visual Effects A
Audio C
Sound Editing C
Audio Effects B
Musical Score A
Production Design B

If not for the good directing, acting, filming, and editing, Landlady would never garner a recommendation here due to its poor script. A telling and easily overlooked example of the production crew’s skill, it’s difficult even to identify Hyapatia’s breasts as artificial in this picture. She never looks anything less than gorgeous the whole time. But to return to the inbred script, it’s writing is so utterly barren that LL orphans its few snippets of nice dialogue, neutralizing them with an isolation worse than what Lily imposed upon herself. For instance, the protagonist’s name “Adam” isn’t even mentioned until the 50 minute mark. Why should we care about this guy’s fate when his friends can’t remember his name?

LL17But the script’s central problem lies with the vacuity mistaken for mystery in Lily’s role. More, or actually any, material about her sinister character ought to be established in the film’s beginning, beyond her few odd gestures and spooky lighting/music. It is baffling to the audience why her insubstantial character is an antagonist in the first place. Instead, there is only Lily’s own haunted reactions and Pat’s suspicions later to condemn the woman. A brief effort toward stage-setting wastes away from neglect in the film’s opening minutes, the abject mention that Scott had met the landlady once before. And, at the movie’s terribly insulting end, Adam’s horrified discovery at Lily’s locked up secret, shows nothing but contempt for the audience, with its poor plot-servicing afterthought of a gimmick.

Regardless her character’s hollowness, sexy Hyapatia Lee certainly knows how to burn on screen and entice others to embrace her fiery doom, blissfully uncaring for their own well being. Again, the lack of a cohesive story arises most noticeably as LL’s solid actors have little showcase for their talents, leaving their characters undeveloped and without a home.

The impaired acting does excel but for a few poor choices by two characters, occuring at separate occasions with Madison’s Pat and Mike Horner’s Scott characters. Pat’s bizarre sexual reactions is the only serious flaw among several excellent performances, whether chaste or amorous. With all her clownish behavior and tongue trilling during sex, what is she—an alien from another planet?

Pat’s sex scene and five minutes from the foreplay of each of Scott’s own two would have been time better spent elsewhere in the production. A little foreplay on screen is great generally, and sorely needed in far too many films, but it is irritating here how Scott badgers Carol for permission to make the slightest move in the first sex scene.

Nearly perfect, the cinematography’s default compositions frame as much of the actresses’ bodies as possible each scene. Visual enticement comes first in LL, and it never wanes.

The sex scenes’ editing maintains a careful eye toward camera selection. Extreme close ups are used sparingly, upholding the powerful emphatic nature of the technique. However, a screen wipe from the side looked like a mistakenly comical indicator when it was used to transition from the staircase to the dinner table as Lily buttonholes Adam to confide in him.

LL’s soundtrack is unexpectedly diverse, but certainly not original to 1990 with its clone of The Prodigy’s “Firestarter” tune from 1996. As Tom Byron’s rock star hairstyle at the time will attest, heavy metal/hard rock would have likely been the score’s mainstay. The change probably came from its 2001 DVD release. This would explain the over-saturated audio levels in dialogue and score, along with a dubbed in song from another movie–with accompanying moans and dialogue that intrudes amid Lily’s seduction scene with Adam.

A few seconds from the opening shot

Too severe and artificial for the residential setting, the studio lighting worsens in the first sex scene when it is visibly adjusted in the middle of shooting, but lighting design settles upon a single look, albeit somewhat stark, for the film’s remainder.

Any fan of the darkly sexy Hyapatia Lee need not look any further than Landlady for strong performances from her and her costars with good support from the production crew.

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