The Perfect Host (2011) - Can't Stop the Movies
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The Perfect Host (2011)

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The Last Airbender aside, M. Night Shyamalan has developed a name for himself by utilizing "twist" endings that shock the audience into disbelief.  He has an unfair reputation in this regard since only one of his movies has a genuine twist (The Sixth Sense) and his better one's have a sense of the conclusion built into every event.  Part of the reason that reputation is so unwarranted is because of the shocking display of subjective lapses on display in The Perfect Host.

It has enough material for a reasonably entertaining half-hour show that I'd stop and watch while channel surfing, but not much more.  There's David Hyde Pierce singing and dancing, brandishing a knife and acting wacky!  Poor David, his quality control (save his run on Frasier) is about as poor as Shyamalan's and this doesn't help put him into an upswing.  He gets to overact, marvelously in fact, but to what end?

That is subject to a rather dreary debate.  John (Clayne Crawford, looking like a low-rent Emile Hirsch) just robbed a bank and is on the run from the cops.  His picture is everywhere, they know his car on sight, his foot is bleeding and he suffers from narrative flashbacks to an attractive woman with liver pains.  So as to escape from these issues he ducks into the home of Warwick (Pierce), whom he takes to be a spineless sap until Warwick strangely cleans up the blood John is living everywhere and insists on giving him more wine.

There's a solid 30 minutes of hustling and hoofing before anything interesting starts.

Now is where the obligatory spoiler warning would usually be necessary but writer/director Nick Tomnay doesn't have such an easy path laid out ahead.  It's advertised, everywhere, even on the DVD box and theatrical poster, that Warwick is a madman.  He films himself in amusing home movies where he licks his own blood off of a knife.  Then he turns the table on John, drugs his would-be-kidnapper, and torments him while talking to people that may or may not exist.

That's not the twist.  But the film lacks a twist, or anything other than a staggering lack of imagination.  Without giving away the warning, I will say that this movie cheats with it's characters to a perverse degree.  Warwick may be insane, but not as much as he seems - ditto for John and his issues with his bedridden girlfriend.  The problem with the movie isn't in performing, but in the directing and the screenplay.  Which, since it all belongs to one man (Nick Tomnay), gives us an easy focal point to focus blame onto and back to our Shyamalan comparison.

Ya see, Shyamalan is still a good director.  Yes, Airbender was an atrocity, but so was 1941 (Spielberg) and All These Women (Bergman).  Great directors make bad movies and sometimes make horrible movies (I'm looking at you Spike Lee, She Hate Me).  I'm not so certain about Tomnay's abilities.

Yes, he can photograph a scene effectively, but his insistence of shooting from the other's vantage point when Warwick's "phantoms" appear suggests a twist that the movie doesn't deliver on.  Which is fairly perplexing because the path the movie does take is more in the "this is stupid" than the "this is stupid but at least it's trying" wheelhouse.  It's highly implied from the angles that Warwick's dinner partners are entirely figments of Warwick's mind.  But this is directly contradictory to the shots from John's POV that confirm the presence of the guests, while Warwick's POV does not reveal such people present.  Fine, have it both ways (it's clearly a universe where John is hallucinating AND Warwick is crazy) until the dumb twist that just confirms my worst suspicions.

Though moments like this Speedo donning self-mutilation binge suggest an amusing direction The Human Centipede might have gone in.

Oh to do the dance of spoilers yet again.  Basically only a third of the movie is worth a damn, the first is an overlong chase scene and the last had me gripping my face in abject terror that so many people could be so dumb.  So what we have is a movie that will return 33 cents to the dollar and all of that has to do with David Hyde Pierce.  He's clearly enjoying himself in the role of the sophisticated killer (Hannibal Lecter with a touch of Dennis Hopper's tormentor in Speed).  But as an acting partner, he so outshines Clayne Crawford to the point it's unfair to put them in scenes together.

I won't say that Tomnay doesn't have a career ahead of him, but the evidence presented in The Perfect Host illustrates he just does not know how to tell a story.  He occupies a small cluster of directors that are their own screenwriters and editors but has made nothing but a gimmicky twist filled film as a result.

Take notice, because Shyamalan doesn't do this.  It's auteurs like Tomnay who really need the seasoning.

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The Perfect Host (2011)

Written and directed by Nick Tomnay.
Starring David Hyde Pierce and  Clayne Crawford.

Posted by Andrew

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