This is a weird movie. I don't mean weird in the way those surreal fantasy films I seem to love are weird, or in the way half the stuff coming out of Japan is weird. I mean weird in that it's just...well, odd. Is it a comedy? Is it a thriller? Is it horror? What the hell is this thing? I'm not really sure.
The premise is simple enough. John Taylor (Clayne Crawford) is a fugitive on the run, for reasons that are explained during the course of the film. Trying to find a place to lay low, he ends up at the home of Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce), claiming to have a mutual friend. Warwick is a gracious host, concerned only that this uninvited guest might disrupt his dinner party. Eventually, John's identity is revealed to Warwick, and that's where things start to get odd.
The less you know about the plot of this movie the more enjoyment you'll get from it. Even the trailer, while still spoiling some surprises, manages to hide the more sinister elements of the film. The story is strange and unpredictable, but it also has some flaws that I could not ignore.
This is what I like to call a "sandwich movie." A sandwich movie can be one of two things: a film with a strong beginning and ending but a poor middle; or a film with a poor beginning and ending, but a strong middle. The Perfect Host is the latter of the two. Until John arrives at Warwick's home, the film feels sluggish. There are several scenes that go on for far too long and serve little to no purpose, with meandering (and sometimes self-indulgent) dialogue. There is for example a scene where John goes into a convenience store to get cleaning supplies for his bleeding foot. The function of this scene only serves to show that the security cameras saw John exit, and he was unsuccessful in getting the supplies. This could have been done in under a minute, but it takes over 5 minutes to get through, and feels entirely unnecessary and little more than padding for the films short 90 minute runtime.
Then there's the ending, and that's where things really fell apart for me. The focus of the film shifts at the end, and adds in plot twists that were not only unnecessary, but wholly uninteresting. This is where the film starts to explore why John was on the run, and frankly I simply didn't care. The reasons why and how John ended up at Warwick's house were not important details, and should never have been the focus. However, the time that John spends in Warwick's house; that is where the film shines.
If I had to give this film a genre classification, I would call it a classy thriller. Most thrillers go for gritty, dirty, and sometimes downright unpleasant. This film tries to be upscale and classy, while still having the undeniable marks of a thriller. Even when horrible and disturbing things are happening on screen, they are displayed with grace and civility, often accompanied by classical music in the background. It's delightfully bizarre, and wildly original, and made the whole experience entirely unpredictable.
The success of the film is in no small part due to the performance by David Hyde Pierce. I haven't seen too much of Hyde Pierce's career (I could never really get interested in Fraiser), but I can still say this is a very new direction for him. Whenever he is on screen, he demands your attention, and it's no big shock that the films poorest moments are those where he is absent. Where the pacing and writing of the film falter, he manages to shine and save the whole production. He completely loses himself in the complex and often outright confusing character of Warwick.
This isn't a great film, and oftentimes it's not even a good film. But when it is good, it's really good. I really wish this film had been better than the product we ended up with, but that doesn't mean it's not an original, unpredictable, and strangely enjoyable product that is worthy of your attention. If you're a fan of Hyde Pierce, or you just want to try something different, then it's worth your attention.
Directed by: Nick Tomnay
Screenplay by: Nick Tomnay, Krishna Jones
Starring: David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford
Pros: An almost award worthy performance from Hyde Pierce
Cons: A beginning that feels sluggish and an ending that feels unnecessary
Rated: R for multiple f-bombs, some sexual references, and several scenes of blood, terror, and torture
Should You See it?: It's not a perfect film, but it's worth checking out for its originality and wonderful lead performance