01 September 2011

Movies: The Perfect Host

The Perfect Host (2010) http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1334553/

Psychological Thriller

John Taylor, ex-con, robs a bank. During his escape he hears a radio news bit that basically tells him the cops already had him and his get-away vehicle figured out. Desperate, he ditches the car, walks through a neighborhood, grabs a postcard out of a mailbox, then bullshits his way into Warwick Wilson's house pretending to be a friend of Warwick's friend Julia. Warwick invites him to dinner, John eventually realizes he's played the ruse too long, and as he begins to terrorize Warwick John passes out. Turns out Warwick isn't the helpless poofter John thought he was. Warwick had already drugged John's drink. Now it's Warwick's turn.

Think "Fraiser's Niles Crane + Psycho"

That summary isn't really spoilery in that you get pretty much the same info from the film trailer, which you can watch on YouTube if you wish.  You'll understand the "Niles Crane + Psycho" reference if you do.
First time I saw the trailer I was convinced I wanted to see the film. Then again I tend to enjoy creepy psychological thrillers, especially when they can turn an actor like David Hyde Pierce into a very effective twisted anti-version of his well known Niles Crane character.

Stars Clayne Crawford as Taylor. I didn't recognize him at first, turns out he was in 2006's "Unknown", a pretty good film too. In this flick he sortof reminds me of Ray Liotta. Also stars David Hyde Pierce as Warwick. Both are quite good in their roles, especially Pierce, who knocks it out of the park. I also recognized Meghan Perry, she plays John's girlfriend. You probably have no clue who she is, but I recognized her from the "Heather's Vampire Vlog" series on YouTube (plus one episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer).

The film is based on a 30 minute short film by the writer/director Nick Tomnay, who also helms this feature length version. Yeah, I hadn't heard of him either. But for being relatively new-to-the-business, and as his first feature length film, he did quite well.  The production seemed a lot more mature than his short résumé would indicate.

There's enough twists in the story to keep the viewer interested. The trailer (and my summary) do nothing to spoil the film. As much as the trailer reveals, more story is lurking. The character development works well, even the flashbacks to flesh out the motivations behind Taylor's bank robbery. Those details get neatly tied together as the story progresses toward its conclusion.

I liked the core film - pretty much the first 2/3 that is probably based on the original short. I can't say for certain as I haven't seen the original short, but it makes a sort of sense compared with the feel of the final 1/3. That last 1/3, well, it took the story in a direction I wasn't anticipating. It was an unexpected twist. As I watched it play out one detail kept nagging at me - the incredible coincidence required for the story to take the direction it takes. If you can look past that coincidence it plays out pretty well and wraps up okay. For me the coincidence is such a big requirement to have to accept that it hurts the film. Not irrecoverably, the film is still quite good, but ouch.

It's refreshing to see an original film in the ocean of remake/sequel/reboot films that have flooded the screens lately. The story seems innovative enough to me, I can't think of any film off the top of my head that it resembles, but I could be wrong. On the IMDB message boards someone offered up "Hard Candy" as a comparison, but I don't see much resemblance at all except for one story aspect that I won't mention for "spoilers" sake. But even that resemblance is a stretch.

If you're in the mood for a psychological thriller this film should fit the bill. Worth watching. Especially because it didn't get much advertising, thus a lot of folks might miss the chance to see it.

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Now that I mentioned 'em, go ahead and check out "Unknown" if you haven't seen it, it's a pretty good mystery thriller. And if you wanna see a messed up psychological thriller give "Hard Candy" a shot too.

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