A Perfect Host takes two of your worst nightmares and locks them in a cabin for the weekend – being trapped in a house with the girl who just rejected you, and being trapped in a house with a health freak.
Director Chad Werner has a comfortable hold of the film, and whilst there is nothing new or original here, the work he does is excellent. There are subtle notes to other horror films that have clearly influenced his work (I particularly like the note to Psycho’s shower scene). He’s also not afraid to let the camera be still, or the frame empty, which helps to highlight the isolation of the lake house and the uncomfortable awkwardness that fills the house. His steady direction allows the strong performance and excellent sound work to have full focus.
A group of friends rent a lake house for the weekend, eager to relax and unwind. Sam has engineered it that he and Avery will spend the first night alone together, so he can confess his feelings for her. Unfortunately, neither the plan or the weekend goes his way. Enter over eager host Tad. He’s an intense health freak who clearly has no idea of boundaries or social cues, and his uncomfortable presence oozes out of the screen.
The plot is somewhat easy to predict, but still engaging throughout. The fact that you can see where it is going and that it feels so real only continues to amplify the tense and uncomfortable situation that’s unfolding around the characters, and at no point was I bored. In fact, midway through, I had to go and lock the bolt on my front door.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The film is for the most part a three hander with young, “not a couple,” Sam and Avery feeling fully formed and nuanced. You can easily believe they are long term friends, and the script helps to hint at references to their past such as a potential attack of Avery. This is not explored, but helps to ground them in reality. Their bitter chemistry towards each other fuels the film, and their awkward exchanges make it believable that at times they’d welcome their host’s interruptions.
Tad played by Brady Burleson Johnson is all over the place in the very best way. At times chewing the scenery, at other times vacant and terrifying. He fully commits to the role and reminds you of every awkward person you’ve ever been stuck next to at a social event who wants to tell you about their intense new fitness regime. Fitness is the route to all evil.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
Straight away, the films sound is unnerving. Using layered soundscapes of classical music, documentary voice over, screaming, sounds of nature, and I’m sure much more, it has you feeling uncomfortable from the minute you press play. You’re never sure if the sound is diegetic or not, or how much is a dream reality. Even during the scenes of silence, there’s an unnatural and uncomfortable feel that pushes the story along.
Shout out to whichever genius decided to use Comic Sans for Tad and Janet’s motivational videos. Perfection.
A Perfect Host isn’t going to blow anyone’s mind or sweep any awards seasons, but it’s a perfectly well made film that does exactly what it says on the tin. Was I engaged? Yes. Was I unnerved? Yes. Did I scream when my cat jumped on me midway through the film? Definitely.
A fine, chilling thriller that’ll keep you engaged on an evening in. Full popcorn throughout. Solidly made!