The first thing that strikes you about The Tenant is how ambitious it is, so desperately seeking pathos, scope, respectability and strong characterisations that it mashes together 2 completely disparate stories to try to make this happen. In this respect its sort of like Funny People with 2 exceptions; it isn’t funny and isn’t that good.
It even has the audacity to try and make you sympathise with the boogeyman aka Frankenstein, but doesn’t pull that off either. The main problem is that The Tenant is most watchable in ways that is isn’t intended to be, The first half of the film revolves around the life, love and professional tribulations of Doctor Newman (Randy Molnar), who is among other things, the head of a sanatorium.
He has an obsession with genetic experimentation to such as extent that he’s going to the morgue to buy heads and then draining them of their ocular fluid. His wife Olivia, played by Georgia Chris, is understandably upset by what her husband is dallying in, but Ms Tinsley, his dutiful nurse makes up for her lack of enthusiasm by whole heartedly embracing the work of her demented employer.
The apple cart is upset when Olivia finds out that she’s pregnant with twins and threatens to leave her husband if he carries on with this research. Ms Tinsley picks up on this marital friction and injects Olivia in the womb with a bastardized sample from the spinal fluid of one of the sanatorium’s patients, Arthur.
Whilst Dr. Newman is furious when he finds out, like you would be, he’s not furious enough to sack Ms Tinsley, or even really reprimand her, like you wouldn’t be. When the twins make their appearance, the little girl is fine, the little boy is an abomination and Olivia invariably dies.
Years later, which is actually 40 minutes into the film, a van full of deaf kids that are being overseen by Liz, Aerica D’Amaro, and a surly driver called Jeff, J. LaRose, breaks down, forcing them to take refuge in Dr Newman’s now boarded up sanatorium. Once the steel door has slammed behind them, they are stuck there with the buildings only tenant, the deformed son of Dr Newman.
It is a brave move to make a film structured in this way, effectively two different halves. They are so removed from each other that the Tenant actually switched genre, to a wannabe slasher from a wannabe Cronenberg at the halfway point. They don’t quite pull off this bold move however, and while the first half is incredibly inept, at least it holds your interest.
When the shift in the story takes place things unfortunately go from bad to worse. It would have made sense to have the characters deafness used to better effect; if they couldn’t hear the killer it would have racked up the tension, but they don’t use it in that context. The result is a group of indistinguishable people being rendered even more so due to their inability to utter a word.
Overall, The Tenant takes a pretty decent storyline and manages to turn it into a less than mediocre film. While it can’t be classed as a complete bore, thanks to the first half, it fails miserably on every level to be what it desperately yearns to be; a damned good horror film.