Perfect Host, The (2011)

The Perfect HostStarring David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford, Nathaniel Parker, Megahn Perry, Helen Reddy

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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