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March 11, 2010

Midnight Movie of the Week #10 - The Roost

Produced and directed (and edited, too, but who's counting?) by Ti West, The Roost premiered as an episode of Frightmare Theatre, a late night horror show akin to the haunts of Elvira or Fright Night's Peter Vincent. Frightmare Theatre was hosted by a pale, tall, Lurchy fellow who looks kind of like actor Tom Noonan, and was the Saturday night attraction on a Channel 13 somewhere. Or at least that's what West's film asks us to believe as it opens. West, now popular after his successful The House of the Devil (one of The Mike's favorite films of 2009), in fact made The Roost in 2004 as his first feature film, and it stands up 6 years later as both a triumphant throwback to midnight horror shows of the past and as a technically impressive chiller.After a brief introduction from one Noonan's character, who is hosting Frightmare Theatre from a black-and-white hilltop haunt while "The Master" is "away on business, we meet four friends on a dark road traveling to a wedding the next day. As if the setting being dark and deserted isn't enough, we quickly are informed that it's both near midnight and Halloween night. Clearly, the stars are not aligned well for West's characters, as their car is attacked from above and ends up stuck on a roadside obstacle. From there, it's off to a nearby farmhouse to look for help, but a cut away shows us that nearby place is just as deadly as the roadside where the young people are stranded.

The set-up should sound familiar to horror fans, but that's not a problem here. West's grainy camera embraces the cliches of horrors gone by lovingly, and the film gives the plot power through lingering exposition shots, moody lighting, and a screeching musical score. This isn't one of those horrors where the tension comes from waiting for someone to sneak up on someone else, at least most of the time.Like House of the Devil, or West's inbetween film Trigger Man, there are plenty of moments of pure shock in The Roost. I don't want to spoil too much of the plot, but you should know that the film will probably remind of anything from The Birds or Bats to Night of the Living Dead or The Evil Dead, or maybe all of the above. And yes, it hurt to list Bats with those other three films, and I apologize to the souls of Hitchcock, Romero, and Raimi. Like the three filmmakers listed, West has great patience when creating scares - often holding off just long enough to turn our tension in to relief right before a surprise occurs.

The Roost feels like a filmmaker's first film, for sure, with unimpressive acting, some plot holes, and a short run-time that leaves the viewer barely sated. But from a minimalist approach, the film succeeds in looking and sounding great (that musical score is really fantastic) while presenting a genre tale in an effective and inoffensive manner. While I don't recommend The Roost as a classic of the genre or even an altogether impressive horror film, it's a fantastic showcase of what this young director can offer the genre in the future. For simple late night chills, The Roost is a more than adequate choice for Midnight Movie of the Week. Here's to many more from Ti West, and to hoping he's learned from the experience on Cabin Fever 2. Stay hungry, young filmmaker!

HorrorBlips: vote it up!


The Mike said...

I have to say, you guys have no idea how hard it was to get through this without making a "The Roost...The Roost...The Roost is on fire!" joke.

R.D. Penning said...

Bats? really? Couldn't you have used The Devil Bat or something?

I Like Horror Movies said...

Ive wanted to see this one for years but just never got around to it.. I wonder if its $0.01 on Amazon yet? Will confirm..

Midnight Fright said...

Well, this seals the fact that we were destined to be friends. I love "The Roost"...and can't believe it has gotten so little attention since it's release. It's nice to see an article on it!