A Brief Review of Ti West's The Roost (2005)

Among the latest generation of horror writer/directors, I've been particularly impressed with the work of Ti West. House of the Devil (2009) and The Innkeepers (2011) are two of the best horror films from the last five years, so I decided to take a look at West's earliest feature-length effort, The Roost, to get an idea of how far he has come as a director. While it's not as good as West's other work, it features a few of his trademark style choices in their early stage of development.

The Roost is about four friends who are on their way to a wedding when their car is run off the road after a near collision. The friends walk to the nearest house to find it deserted, with a barn nearby--a barn that houses a horde of bats that thirst for human blood.

As debut filmmaking efforts on a limited budget go, The Roost has enough wit and style to make it worth watching. The film's main story is bookended by scenes featuring a ghoulish Horror Host (played by Tom Noonan, who would later appear in House of the Devil), an affectionate nod to late show broadcasts of horror films during heyday of syndicated TV channels. The story itself is thin and the characters make questionable decisions (particularly towards the end), but you can see West using this low-budget outing as an opportunity to begin crafting his "slow burn" style of horror as the film progresses.

West carefully sets up all of the characters and locations before letting the scares commence, which allows for the establishment of a particular mood that complements and accentuates the horror when it finally emerges. Even though you don't learn too much about the main characters, there's enough small talk and emotional exchanges between them to let you know that these characters have a history with each other outside of the story itself. The bat and gore effects are impressive considering how cheaply they were done, and West throws in a secret about the bats that is not explicitly explained through dialogue but makes enough sense to keep the scares going in spite of the film's short, simple plot. Not to give too much away, but The Roost would work as the first half of a double bill with a film like 28 Days Later or Quarantine. It should also be noted that The Roost was produced by veteran horror director Larry Fessenden, who also makes a cameo appearance and would go on to produce some of West's subsequent films.

The Roost is not Ti West's best work, but it's something that West fans and cheap horror film aficionados can both enjoy.


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