The other night I dreamt I was in a theater lobby with five different ticket booths. Each was selling tickets to a different zombie movie but, because there were letters missing on the marquees, I couldn’t tell which was which and I ended up buying non-refundable tickets to the wrong film (I’m guessing it was an entry in the Resident Evil series). This frustrating experience was my subconscious reminding me that I’m seriously behind on my zombie report. So here’s a review of a film I saw probably six weeks ago. Let’s test my horror recall.
The Roost (dir: Ti West, Glass Eye Pix, 2005)
I picked this up after winning (Thank you, MondoMovie) and loving West’s House of the Devil; a Halloween-meets-Rosemary’s Baby tribute to 1980s horror.
The Roost is West's first feature and understandably less accomplished than HOTD but still fun and (mostly) effective. It begins with a group of 20-somethings on their way to a wedding. They’re already off-course, on an ill-advised short cut, when a bat smacks into their SUV windshield and they wind up in a ditch. They do the classic “wander off in the dark to find help” and come upon a small farm with a massive, cavernous, Taj Mahal of an evil-looking barn. The barn is full of millions of temperamental bats who will bite you and turn you into the walking dead. That’s it. Pretty basic.
The barn (apparently the same as used in Hitchcock’s Marnie) is a great location full of murky corners, made even more murky by an effective use of DV. It’s hard to believe that the elderly couple who own the farm need such a behemoth of agricultural architecture, but that’s nit-picking.
The bat effects are simple and effective and--together with the zombies they’ve infected--make for a good two-stage monster. Bats can fly and fit through small crevices, zombies can open doors and wrestle; that doesn’t leave a lot of safe places.
The 20-somethings are self-absorbed douches who don’t like each other and don’t seem to care much about the couple they’re on the way to celebrate. The only time anyone says anything interesting or insightful is when they’re backstabbing. I see these kind of characters so often that I don’t know if they’re a shared trait of cynical early 2000s horror; if the inability to created likeable characters is a common weakness in screenwriters; or if I just don’t like anyone younger than me. In any case they kept me from becoming completely involved in the film and had me waiting for the kills (one of which—like another in House of the Devil--is so simple, sudden and brutal that it will stick with you for a while).
The Roost also features an odd framing device with Tom Noonan (the gangly killer from Manhunter) playing a late-night TV horror host presenting the events of the film. This device is cute but has absolutely no connection to the rest of the movie, and seems kind of slapdash. I’m guessing it was just to pad this out to feature length (though it’s still a brisk 81 mins).
Outbreak Location: Rural Pennsylvania
Zombification cause: Super-rabies
Mobility: Slow and awkward (but they vanish when you look away for 5 seconds)
Rating: Three undead Hare Krishnas (out of five)