Starring Tom Noonan, Karl Jacob, Vanessa Horneff, Sean Reid
Directed by Ti West
You know that feeling you had when you were a kid on Christmas Eve, and you’ve got a big honking present under the tree, and you’re like 98% positive that it’s that battery powered dumptruck that you’ve been begging your parents to get you for six months, and you can hardly wait until the morning to open it because you know how rad it’s going to be? That’s pretty much how I felt walking into the Canadian premiere of Ti West’s The Roost. If you’re familiar with this kind of anticipation, then you may also be familiar with the sickly feeling of tearing off the wrapping paper and finding a sweater staring you in the face. Granted, The Roost is a sweater with rabid zombie bats on it, which is pretty cool, but it still ain’t no dumptruck.
The Roost wants to be a kickass 80’s video throwback that disinters the discarded animals run amok horror sub-genre. In this case, the animals getting their amok on are crazed rabid bats that nibble on people, thereby turning them into crazed rabid zombies. Now if that’s not a cool premise for a B-movie revival, then I don’t know what is. Problem is, the idea never really pays off, and it drags its ass getting nowhere.
The film starts by introducing us to your basic group of road tripping teen fodder, stranded in the middle of nowhere with their car stuck in a ditch. They go looking for help and come across an isolated farmhouse. In fairly short order, the two inhabitants of the house and one of the teenyboppers are picked off in boring & confusing offscreen deaths. We’re finally filled in on what’s been happening when a cop shows up and is attacked by, hmm, let me count…about five bats, and then dies by accident after the bats scare him into running out of a window.
I think the surviving characters were watching a different movie, in which there were thousands of scary ass screeching bats that forced them into holing up in the farm’s barn, because I just didn’t get why they were so scared of the two or three bats that were visible in the movie I saw. I suppose you could argue that since the critters are rabid zombie bats you don’t want to mess with even one of them. Problem is, NOBODY knows the bats are anything other than your garden variety flying mice at this point. It seriously threw me that the characters were acting like a full on zombie bat invasion was occurring that prevented them from making their escape, when all I could see were a couple smallish, boring CGI bats.
The story continues in this vein for a while, but it doesn’t really matter, since no serious threat is ever established so there’s zero tension, and due to a glut of inane dialog and ho-hum acting, we don’t really care for the characters anyway. Add to this some really self consciously arty wide shots that linger so long you wonder if they cut the film at all, some badly done exposition that had me thinking they could have made this a silent film, and a bunch of “BOO!” scares that don’t work, and there’s no way to justify this as a movie in the tradition of early Raimi and Romero.
The Roost is book ended by a mock midnight creature feature TV show (hosted by Tom Noonan!). The conceit is that we’re supposed to believe The Roost is actually a low budget, cornball, animal disaster movie. If you flipped on the tube at three in the morning and saw The Roost you might be fooled for a little while, mainly because of how it looks, but you’d quickly realize that even those crappy 80’s flicks we all love weren’t nearly as bad as this disappointing dud…