Roost, The

Reviewed By Chris Parry
Posted 03/22/05 12:44:08

"I'm *so* over the horror film renaissance."
3 stars (Average)

SCREENED AT THE 2005 SXSW FILM FESTIVAL: You know you're in trouble with a horror film when the premise begins with the words "Four teenagers driving along a country road have a car accident..." In fact, I'd go so far as to say that any horror film with the premise that begins "Four teenagers..." should warrant a red light in itself. Heck, now that I think about it, any film with the words "teenagers" in the premise is generally a bad bet. But I digress... The Roost? It's okay.

Four teenagers driving to a Halloween wedding have a wreck by the side of the road. They go looking for help in a distant farmhouse, but all is not as it seems... for there's something weird in the barn. Ooga, meet booga.

The genre of horror films has been one that hasbeen the topic of much hand-wringing in studio circles over the past few years. As this review is being written, The Ring 2 sits atop the box office pyramid, despite weak critical response and genre competition aplenty. But whether horror movies can continue to hold the top spot in the 'most wanted' stakes of Hollywood is entirely dependent on whether or not the films that are released are good enough to keep audiences amused. Certainly crap like Cursed and Hide and Seek is not likely to keep the flame alive, and The Ring 2 is entirely unscary and distinctly boring. So where does that leave a flick like The Roost, whose producers are hoping to cash in on the 2005 Halloween season?

The Roost is a low budget horror affair that aims to bring a little grit back to the genre, and for the most part, does. Writer/director Ti West makes good on his first feature, bringing a very raw style to a story that is nothing more than a hook to hang a lot of the usual horror conventions on. The kids go into the barn, the barn is huge, with all sorts of stairways and trapdoors and nasties lying in wait. And yes, there are genuine jump-scare moments.

But the big question on everyone's lips is this - is it any good? And by good, I mean Cabin Fever/28 Days Later/Dawn of the Dead good, a film the likes of which crosses over into the mainstream and gives people not used to being frightened by their movies a taste for something more. To that question, I have to say no. The Roost is a lot of things, but none of them share the same postcode as 'mainstream'. A bookended black and white sequence where Manhunter's Tom Noonan plays a 1950's B-movie horror host discussing the events on screen only serves to take away from the atmosphere of the piece, and the mid-movie interruption this tactic creates works actively against the flow of the piece.

Horror fans are probably going to love The Roost because it's better than so much other crap out there, but those looking for good cinema, regardless of genre, are likely to be disappointed by the distinct lack of storyline, the plotholes you could wheel a cadaver through, and the always annoying desire to reach into the screen and punch one of the characters for being an utter bonehead.

I wasn't a big fan of The Roost, but I can appreciate that others will be. You've got to be a little forgiving, and very much into the guts and gore stuff, to get the most out of the flick. If that's you, by all means have at it.

© Copyright HBS Entertainment, Inc.