Directed by Nick Tomnay
Have you ever seen a movie that you knew nothing about going into it and when it was over it simply left you speechless, but in the best possible way? That’s how I felt after watching Magnolia Pictures’ upcoming release The Perfect Host which is currently available via VOD and will hit limited theaters on July 1st.
At the beginning of The Perfect Host, we are introduced to John (Crawford), an injured career criminal who’s on the run after he commits a bank robbery in Los Angeles. With the police hot on his trail, John’s smart enough to realize that he needs to get off the streets so he searches for a house in a nearby affluent neighborhood to hide out at until the heat dies down.
John soon finds himself in front of the home of Warwick Wilson (Pierce) and after he finds a postcard addressed to Warwick in his mailbox from a friend in Australia, John concocts a story using the “friend of a friend (from Australia)” technique and convinces the unassuming Warwick he’s his only hope for getting his affairs worked out after the airport lost his luggage and he was subsequently mugged right after leaving LAX.
Being the consummate host, Warwick finds John’s story convincing enough to let the stranger into his home, despite an impending dinner party he’s in the middle of preparing for. Initially, knowing that John has criminal tendencies, we as viewers should be concerned for Warwick’s well-being but as the night progresses, John begins to realize that he may be in real danger as Warwick reveals himself to be a bit of a sociopath.
Saying anything more about the plot of The Perfect Host would be like me telling you what your presents are as you begin to unwrap them on Christmas morning- it would ruin all the fun and cheapen the experience of seeing the movie for yourself. What I can say is that the best part of the movie is how the story keenly keeps you guessing and manages to throw your perceptions of everyone in the movie way off until the very last frame. While the movie isn’t a straight-up horror film, I would call it one of the most gleefully disturbing dark comedies of the last ten years. Think Funny Games meets Bitter Feast with a rousing disco number that sets the tone for the entire second-half of the film.
As a feature film directorial and writing debut, The Perfect Host is revelatory work created by Nick Tomnay. Not only is Tomnay able to create a suspenseful thriller that is an intriguing character study filled with offbeat tension but he also managed to nail down the art of multi-layered storytelling that never comes off clichéd and keeps you guessing until the credits begin rolling.
Beyond a stellar script and a great director at the helm, The Perfect Host hits all the right notes due to casting Pierce and Crawford as the film’s leads. Their chemistry is the heart of the film and they play off of each other perfectly in every single scene they work together in. Pierce, who is best known for his performance as Niles on the NBC comedy “Frasier” demonstrates in The Perfect Host that he’s got the chops to carry a feature film and plays Warwick with reckless abandon that is both thrilling and intriguing to watch throughout the movie. It’s definitely a breakout role for Pierce and I’m hoping he’ll get some recognition for his sublimely demented performance in this film- or at the very least that he’ll have the opportunity to do more work in feature films in the near future.
The Perfect Host is a prime example of why you don’t need an insane effects budget or huge set pieces to give audiences a cinematic experience they won’t soon forget. Even though the movie’s success hinges on a lot of “coincidences” that may come off a bit formulaic to some viewers, I was willing to accept them simply because the story unfolding was engaging enough to forgive a few contrivances here and there. The Perfect Host is the perfect antidote to the onslaught of bland blockbuster genre films that seem to plague multiplexes these days (Priest, I’m looking at you!). If you’re looking for an inventive twist on the home invasion subgenre of horror, then you’ll want to check out The Perfect Host for yourself either now on VOD or when it hits limited theaters on July 1st.
4 out of 5
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American Psycho Meets Creep – Strawberry Flavored Plastic Review
Starring Aidan Bristow, Nicholas Urda, Andres Montejo
Directed by Colin Bemis
Recently I wrote up an article here on Dread Central which was basically an open letter to anyone who was listening called “I Miss Found Footage.” Well, it seems like someone WAS listening, as I was then sent the link to an all-new found footage film called Strawberry Flavored Plastic from first-time writer-director Colin Bemis.
The film follows the “still-at-large crimes of Noel, a repentant, classy and charming serial killer loose in the suburbs of New York.” Basically, you could think of the flick as American Psycho meets Mark Duplass and Partick Brice’s Creep. That, or you could think of it as “Man Bites Dog in color!” However you choose to label Colin Bemis’ psychological thriller, just make sure you check out the film once it hits in the future.
As I alluded to above, the film is basically a found footage version of American Psycho. But that said, the film sports a twist on the charming serial killer subgenre that I have yet to see play out in any of the above-mentioned classics. I’m not going to go into spoiler territory here, but I will say that the film introduces an element to the tale that spins it into much more of a character drama than a straight horror film. Not that there is anything wrong with that!
Truth be told, the film’s turn from serial killer flick into a layered character study might have been its kiss of death, but this slight genre switch is rendered a minor issue as the film’s central narcissistic antagonist is played by Aidan Bristow. Bristow is an actor you may not have heard of before this review, but you will hear his name more and more over the years to come, I promise. The guy gives (no pun intended) a killer performance as the film’s resident serial killer Noel Rose, and time after time surprised me with how chilling, charming, or downright vulnerable he chose to play any given scene.
Bristow’s performance is, in the end, the major element the film has going for it. But that said, as a fan of found footage, I was smiling ear to ear at first-time director Colin Bemis’ understanding of what makes a found footage suspense sequence work.
In Strawberry Flavored Plastic director Colin Bemis is confident and content to allow full emotional scenes to play out with the camera directed at nothing more than a character’s knees. Why is this so important? Because it keeps the reality of the film going. Too many found footage directors would focus on the actors’ faces during such emotional scenes – no matter how contrived the camera angle was. In this film, however, Bemis favors the reality that says, “If you were really in this emotional state and holding a camera, you would let it drop to your side.” I agree, and it is small touches like that which make the film feel authentic and thus – once the shite hits the fan – all the scarier.
On the dull side of the kitchen knife, the film does feel a bit long even given it’s short running time, and there doesn’t seem too much in the way of visceral horror to be found within. Again, graphic blood and gore aren’t a must in a fright flick, but a tad more of the old ultra-violence would have gone a long way in selling our main psychopath’s insanity and unpredictability. But all the same, the film does feature a rather shocking sequence where our main baddie performs a brutal home invasion/murder that puts this film firmly in the realm of horror. In fact, the particular POV home invasion scene I’m talking about holds about as much horror as you’ll ever wish to witness.
In the end, Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic is a must-see for fans of found footage and serial killer studies such as American Pyscho, Creep, and Man Bites Dog. I recommend giving it a watch once it premieres. If only to be able to point to Aidan Bristow in the near future and tell all your friends that you watched (one of) his first movies.
Lead actor Aidan Bristow turns in a star-making performance in Colin Bemis’ Strawberry Flavored Plastic, a found footage film that plays out like Man Bites Dog in Color before introducing a new element to the charming-serial-killer subgenre and becoming more character study than a straight horror. Think American Psycho meets Creep.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 148 – Inside (2017 Remake)
We’ve all heard the old saying, “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” Well, I’m here to tell you that’s only partially true. It seems there is a third certainty that had been omitted from the original quote, “It is certain, if you enjoy a movie, at some point someone will remake that movie.” Now is the time when one of my favorite movies gets reimagined, “for an American audience”.
In the late 2000’s an explosion of “French extreme” horror films was released. Martyrs and or High Tension can often be found on any number of lists of the “most fucked up horror movies ever”. Unfortunately, the vastly superior Inside is often forgotten (as well as Frontier(s), but that’s a whole ‘nother rant). Now, ten years after it’s initial release, Inside has been Americanized. Don’t worry, we watched it so you don’t have to. You’re welcome.
Mommy says you’re not dead. Is that true? It’s the Who Goes There Podcast episode 148!
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Totem Review – It’s Not Always A Bad Thing To Look Up From The Bottom Level, If You Like That View
Starring Kerris Dorsey, James Tupper, Ahna O’Reilly
Directed by Marcel Sarmiento
Following the untimely death of a family’s matriarchal figure, a young woman finds out that managing to hold all of the pieces in place becomes increasingly more difficult when otherworldly infiltrators make their presence felt. We’re going to have to work our way up this Totem, as
17 year old Kellie is the leading lady of the home following the passing of her mother Lexy, and with a needy father and tiny tot of a baby sister, she still keeps things in working order, regardless of the rather large hole that’s been left in the dynamic due to the death. Kellie’s dad after a while decides to ask his lady-friend to move in with the family, so that everyone can move onto a more peaceful existence…yeah, because those types of instances always seem to work seamlessly. As fate would have it, Kellie’s sense of pride is now taking a beating with the new woman in the mix, and her little sister’s new “visitor” is even more disturbed by this intruder – only question is, exactly who is this supernatural pal of sorts? Is it the spirit of their dead mother standing by to keep watch over the family, or is it something that’s found its way to this group, and has much more evil intentions at hand?
What works here is the context of something innately malicious that has found its way into the home – there are only a couple moments that come off as unsettling, but the notion of having to weave through more than half the film acting as a sullen-teen drama is rather painful. The presentation of the “broken family” is one that’s been done to death, and with better results overall, and that’s not to say that the movie is a complete loss, it just takes far too much weeding through at times stale performances and even more stagnant pacing to get to a moderately decent late-stage conclusion to the film. Under the direction of Marcel Sarmiento (Deadgirl), I’d truly hoped for something a bit more along the lines of a disturbing project such as that one, but the only thing disturbing was the time I’d invested in checking this one out. My best advice is to tune into the Lifetime channel if you want a sulky teen-melodrama with a tinge of horror, or you could simply jump into this one and work your way up…but it’s a LONG way to the top.
Sulky, moody, and ridden with teen-angst buried in the middle of a supernatural mystery – SOUNDS like a decent premise, doesn’t it?
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