Monday, June 27, 2011

The Perfect Host (2010)

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner?

I've only hosted a handful of dinner parties in my lifetime, most of them resulting in someone trying to use white wine to get red wine out of the carpet. Needless to say, I'm hardly the fanciest person on the planet. On the other hand, my weekly outdoor grillings have become a bit of a mainstay this year, and just this past Saturday, one guest thanked me for being "such a great host". While I'll wear that compliment like a badge of honor, it's still far from being "the perfect host". That title is awarded to David Hyde Pierce's Warwick Wilson, a man who truly knows how to throw a (wait for the pun) killer party.

When bank robber John Taylor (Clayne Crawford, The Glades) escapes from his latest heist with a cool three-hundred grand, he's still got a few problems to deal with. A nasty foot injury has hampered his perfect getaway, not to mention the fact that his name and car model are all over radio and television news reports. After ditching his ride, John makes his way into a lavish neighborhood where he uses his criminal smarts to find a place to hideout. Unfortunately, the woman in the first house he tries doesn't fall for his Jehovah Witness routine and he's back on the street. Looking through another home's mailbox, John discovers a postcard from Sydney, Australia made out to a Warwick Wilson from Julia. Slapping on some crafty charm, John rings the doorbell and speaks to Warwick (David Hyde Pierce, Frasier), claiming he met Julia in Sydney and that she suggested the two meet as they would probably make great friends. He also tells Warwick that he was mugged and is waiting on his cousin to come home and just needs a place to stay. Citing that Julia would never forgive him if he turned away a friend of hers, Warwick invites John inside to relax, have some wine, and make a few phone calls, even asking him to stay and eat as he's throwing a casual dinner party with a few close friends who have yet to arrive. Things appear to be going smoothly until John's true colors begin to show and he threatens Warwick's life, insisting he call his guests and cancel the dinner party. Unfortunately for John, he doesn't know whose home he's invaded and begins feeling a bit woozy. Turns out that his gracious host's red wine had an extra ingredient, and soon John wakes to find himself tied to a chair as Warwick and his guests converse over dinner around him, making him the guest of honor in a night of hilariously depraved lunacy.

The Perfect Host is a perfect example of the type of psychological-thriller that will stand out to both horror fans and indie films alike. While it's not your standard gore film in any form, it's a twisted take on the home invasion scenario, providing as many unsettling moments as it does laughs. Seeing John go from a feared and assertive, knife-wielding robber to being drugged just enough to where Warwick can have him participate in the conga line is a prime example of how the film plays with this balance.

Both Pierce and Crawford are flawless in their roles, embracing both the tension and humor with equal enthusiasm. Pierce really shines as Warwick, an effeminate lady killer and host extraordinaire, who always seems to have the perfect solution for anything that comes his way. Though I won't get into the film's many clever twists that play out through the third act, Warwick's character is given an insane amount of substance (keyword: insane) that plays into some wonderfully surprising moments that you will never see coming. John is also given a bit of backstory that provides him with a bit of sympathy from the viewer as well as getting his own handful of twists and turns in the final act.

With Pierce's over-the-top performance, a hilariously eerie plot, and a dash of violence to sate the pure-horror fans, The Perfect Host is an easily recommendable movie. Though it's not a film that needs plot twists to stay afloat, it still provides so many unique surprises, it almost feels like the movie is spoiling you a bit. But would you expect any less? A perfect host always pampers his guests.

4/5 Stars

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