Fantasia Festival Report: The Roost

Founder and Editor; Toronto, Canada (@AnarchistTodd)
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The advance buzz on Ti West's debut film The Roost has been simply deafening, with people lining up to proclaim West the next Sam Raimi. Does he have the goods to back that up? According to Philippe Gohier he does ...

Of course, the movie is set on Halloween night. Of course, the four attractive teenagers driving to a friend's wedding get their car stuck in a ditch. Of course, they set out on foot and find an abandoned country house, with an adjacent vampire-bat-infested barn. Of course, none of them seem to have any idea what will follow. Of course, we do.

Riding confidently on a crest of clichés, Ti West's feature film debut succeeds not in spite of its hokey horror-pastiche premise, but rather because of it. From its opening sequence, with a midnight-movie styled intro and crypt-keeper host, to the campy gore that follows, West shows us that there is nothing wrong with the horror-movie archetype as long it's crafted right.

Borrowing loosely from the tradition that spawned Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Roost tracks the terror that awaits Allison, Elliot, Trevor, and Brian once they ditch their car to find help. That they fall prey to bloody, mangled zombies and bloodthirsty bats should be expected by anyone in attendance. That they fall prey to West's fantastically lurid vision is how the points are scored.

Despite its gory special effects, fast-paced editing, and shaky handheld-camera shots, West's success is mostly derived from his restraint. In one particularly frightening scene, West keeps the camera on a flashlight - away from the action - letting the audience's imagination do the work for him. (He or she was wise who once said that there is nothing quite as sordid as the mind of a censor...) Exemplifying the restraint West will show throughout the film, the scene places West securely on the right side of the cheap scares vs. legitimate fright dichotomy. Rather than exploiting his audience for mere surprise-scare tacticts, The Roost commits itself to generating the kind of the paranoid fear found only in the films which have evidently served as inpiration to West.

West's restraint also allows him to keep an impressive tunnel-vision-like focus on his victims, detailing every step of their agony. As the four become increasingly isolated from each other, they gradually succumb to primal emotions, ranging from bouts of violent paranoia to spells of absolute stasis. The slow emotional degradation of the characters is absolutely essential in establishing the legitimacy of their distress.

Unfortunately, the flow of the film is somewhat interrupted in the middle of the descent into depravity when West cuts to a sequence with the crypt-keeper. The film had managed, by this point, to outgrow its initial homage qualities and stand on its own. It is perhaps West's modesty that got the best of him, as he sought to remind viewers of the tradition that inspired him; it nevertheless proves to be a rare display of self-indulgent nostalgia. Moreover, the film does not contain distinct halves that need to have their merits set apart from each other.

Thankfully, the plot plows through crypt-keeper sequence, and the momentary distraction is long-forgotten by the wildly captivating ending. Besides, much of the film's charm emanates from its setting rather than its kitsch value. Though the “midnight movie" vibe certainly gives it a contemporary feel, its generic, unidentifiable setting is much more integral to its ambient paranoia. The tight shots and rapid-fire editing portray the farm house as essentially rural; it is, at once, like every distant local and like none other. As such, it becomes dizzyingly foreign and familiar, simultaneously close and distant..

Indeed, combined with an immaculate score, the clever use of special effects, and West's disciplined, deft direction, The Roost shows that West needn't shine a light on anyone else's work to make his own seem brighter.

Review by Philippe Gohier.

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More about Roost, The

Kurt HalfyardJuly 25, 2005 1:30 AM

All I can say is that even if the movie is terrible (and that doesn't seem to be the case)...The trailer for the film is a joy to behold!

theNomadJuly 25, 2005 8:04 AM

yeah heard about this myself,cant wait,allways 1st in line for new horror talent.

Chazy SciotaJuly 26, 2005 4:21 AM

I just got back from this year's Fantasia and I've actually seen The Roost as opposed to the person who claims to have seen it in this review. So let me set things straight.

I was eagerly awaiting this film. In fact, it's one of the main reasons for my going to the festival this year. Fangoria and even the internet trailer for the film got me really excited. I was ready to be scared.

Unfortunately, The Roost instead put me to sleep. The review posted on Twitch described the film's 'fast paced editing'. Are you kidding?!? The Roost is literally a series of long boring takes filled with bad acting, lighting and an obvious lack of script ideas to keep it moving.

The Roost's strong point is its sound design and music. Whoever it was involved in those areas of the film knew that they had to do something to keep things interesting since the film fails to do that for the audience.

Are there scary moments? Sure, there are a couple of okay moments in there. But the film doesn't warrant the exhalted praise and attention it's been getting from the media.

Sorry everybody...

ROBERT BLACKAugust 5, 2005 4:48 PM


YOU are too kind. Great new talent? Someone's on crack! I attended the same screening as you, and I can say unequivacably that this is the WORST dreck I saw at Fantasia. It fails on every conceivable level. BAD acting,BAD direction,horrible choppy erratic editing,No originality whatsoever. West just uses his thin premise to re-create his favourite moments from The Evil Dead. Even the score of that film is shamelessly copied, right down to the last music cue.The worst failure is that West never establishes the Bats as any real threat. The actors are simply reacting to a group of maybe nine small bats. A great threat! As mentioned they're are maybe one or two brief cheap scares.Even those are only marginally effective.

The most baffling thing about The Roost is how certain so- called journalists ever considered Ti West as a great new talent.

jazDecember 9, 2005 8:29 AM

I thought that the acting by allison, brian, and elliot was good. They didnt make more out of their roles then needed. I dont think they were even given much to work with, but with what they had they did well.

HeatherNovember 7, 2006 6:26 AM

Me myself, I enjoyed the Roost. I liked the characters and the story to this movie. I'm always watching movies, especially horror movies. But I just really liked the movie. There's a couple parts in the movie that I didn't really care for that much, but that happens with a lot of movies I watch. I may love the movie, but there may be parts that I don't care for much. Some people don't like movies that are cheaply made, but that doesn't really matter to me. As long as the movie is good, and makes since. And if some of you people that has watched movie think it is so cheap, and you don't like it because of that, you might like at some of the movies at Blockbuster, or any place that you can rent movies at. Some of the movies look like a movie made from a $100 video camera bought from KMART!