This indie horror fest went
largely unseen during its brief 2005 theatrical release, but is finding an
appreciative audience on DVD. That’s a positive development, as it’s a skilled,
scary and all-around good time!
Horror buffs will recognize the name of Larry Fessenden, this 2004 film’s
executive producer. An award-winning maker of low-budget horror fare like
NO TELLING and
HABIT, the New York-based
Fessenden, through his company Glass Eye Pix, has recently taken to producing
flicks by other filmmakers. Not all of them live up to the high standards set
by Fessenden’s own films (such as the sci fier AUTOMATONS, which despite
positive reviews isn’t much).
THE ROOST was one of the first, and very likely the
best, of Fessenden’s non-directed productions. It was the feature debut of the
talented Ti West, who prior to making it worked as a T-shirt salesmen...and went
on to direct 2007’s impressive TRIGGER MAN, which is now available on DVD.
Several dopey teenagers are driving in the dead of night, but are
driven off the road by a flying something. Finding themselves stranded in the
middle of nowhere, the teens set off to find help. Their first stop is a
deserted farmhouse, where an elderly couple was just killed by some unseen
The kids split up. A couple of them enter the barn and promptly
disappear. Prowling the highway, two of the guys flag down a passing cop, and
he agrees to search the area for their missing friends.
The cop ends up dead, leaving the kids to creep around
like idiots...with unseen creatures tracking their every move. To make things
worse, there’s a roost of malevolent bats in the barn. But then the cop’s
corpse inexplicably disappears--and abruptly turns back up as a flesh-eating
Shortly thereafter another member of the group is found dead and the
elderly couple who occupied the house become shuffling zombies. Before the
night is through there are more killings, of course, and more zombies--and more
zombie killings. And keep an eye out for those deadly bats! But the real
menace is offscreen: an irritating TV host who introduces, concludes and insists
upon interrupting the action to remind us it’s all part of a TV program!
THE ROOST is intriguing largely for the fact that it shouldn’t play as well
as it does. Matter of fact, it probably shouldn’t work at all, seeing as how
it’s a cliché fest that relies largely upon cheap shocks. The narrative,
involving a bunch of young folks stranded by a broken-down car, is quite
literally a succession of timeworn clichés, while the characters are all
empty-headed automatons who exist only to be picked off.
Yet despite all that the film is an extremely accomplished piece of work.
Ti West eschews the show-offy camerawork and hyper-editing of most modern horror
flicks (the low budget likely wouldn’t have permitted for those things anyway)
in favor of tightly controlled Hitchcockian tracking shots. The effect is
similar to that of the original HALLOWEEN, complete with several noisy jolts of
the type that usually annoy me in horror movies. Here, though, the jolts are
pulled off with such skilled precision they actually work. Plus the
cinematography is superb in the way it bathes each scene in pointed snatches of
light amidst a palette of otherwise utter darkness.
The only real sore spots for me were the annoying wraparound sections with
Tom Noonan as a Zachary-esque TV host that open and close--and at one point
interrupt--the film. These segments were shot in black and white, and were
intended, apparently, to lend an extra dimension. But the Noonan bits are
poorly paced and tacky, and make for an awkward fit with the main body of the
film. Even worse, they directly recall the smarmy self-awareness of the SCREAM
flicks--although I will concede that the wraparound concludes with a satisfying
Glass Eye Pix
Producer: Susan Leiber
Cinematography: Eric Robbins
Cast: Tom Noonan, Will Horneff, Karl Jacob, Vanessa Horneff, Sean Reid, John
Speredakos, Barbara Wilhide, Richard Little, Larry Fessenden