Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Roost (2005) : Bats Always Get A Bad Rap

My biggest problem with Ti West's films are the character narratives. They are so. damn. boring.  This was definitely the case (to a lesser degree) with House of the Devil and most certainly with The Innkeepers. And I'd be lying if I said The Roost was any different. I think West tries to make his films too true to life, because let's face it -in life we ramble on and on about absolutely nothing most of the time. Meaningless conversations are the norm, if I'm being honest.  But that doesn't mean I want to sit and watch it for twenty minutes on film, waiting for something - ANYTHING - to start to happen!

Because of the insanely boring dialogue, it makes the characters seem impossibly inane and even harder to give a shit about.  What Ti West does have going for him is an uncanny ability to present thick and delicious atmosphere that very few directors can top. In the three above films I mentioned, atmosphere is the key ingredient.  Dark roads, forboding houses, fog rolling in, strange noises, and unexpected twists and turns...all while we patiently wait between dialogue for something to occur.  In The Roost, West's first feature-length directorial outing, we sure do wait. And wait.  I love a slow burn just like the next guy but man, this is ridiculous.

Before we even get to the "real" film, there is an extended little vignette that is in black and white and introduces us to a television horror host played by none other than Tom Noonan (yay!).  I'll admit, this prelude did add a bit to the film.  It was sort of a tamed down version of something Rob Zombie did two years prior in House of 1000 Corpses.  It is here where you can tell a director who has a serious love of the genre and the old thrillers that were played in the wee hours of the morning, hosted by various characters over the years.
Here, the horror host describes the upcoming film, almost poking fun at it before it begins.
It should be noted that though this is a low-budget outing, West does a good job evoking creepiness and impending doom. 

Four friends (well, I think they're friends- for a while it's hard to tell!) are driving to another friend's Halloween wedding, (which incidentally must be an uber-casual affair - from the way our quartet are dressed in jeans and sweatshirts) when they are driving through a covered bridge and a giant bat slams into their windshield, causing them to (of course) wreck the car, stranding themselves in the deep dark woods.  As is common horror movie tactics, the foursome treks off into the night to look for help.

 Meanwhile, an elderly couple are locking up their house and packing their truck for an apparent trip of some kind.  The little missus asks Gramps if he locked the barn and with a rolling of the eyes, he goes to check.  Unfortunately he has never noticed the giant fucking horde of huge-ass bats roosting there (it is his barn, isn't it?) and he meets an untimely (or timely, as the case may be - he IS quite old!) death, as does his wife when she comes to check on him.
Yep, them there bats are huge- like vampire bats, ya hear?

Naturally our lost kids (again, forgive me as I can't recall any of their names and am too lazy to look them up because quite frankly, I don't care) end up at said house and from there it's just death to all humans.  Weirdly though, West thought it wasn't enough to have giant vampire bats picking off his cast one by one.  Instead, he bizarrely has the victims turn into zombies when bitten by the bats (or by other zombies, natch).
Um, okay.  I was seriously okay with just the bats.  But I guess it wasn't gory enough. Zombies eating people is almost always bloodier than simple bat bites!

Interrupting the film with 'Tom Noonan The Horror Host' at key places within the film was a bit goofy as well. Much as I liked the beginning of the movie and its nostalgic throw back to the Chiller Theater days, it was a little bit disruptive to have it in the middle of the film.

Once again, I have to reiterate how un-enamored I was with the characters. We are not given any back story whatsoever on them and therefore tend not to have any sympathy going forward.  I could barely recall their names by the end  middle of the film.  (West's The Innkeepers was far superior in this, at least. We really got to know the two leads - even though again we are bored to damn tears by their mundane conversations. I think we are supposed to get a hipster feel from them, that they are cooler than they actually are).   

The Roost does do one thing right. It doesn't drag the film out too long. If this would've been a two hour film I think I'd have possibly hung myself from my ceiling fan. Thankfully, it only runs an abbreviated 80 minutes long.

All in all, I can't say I loved The Roost. Far from it. But I didn't hate it and it does have some decent action and gratifying gore, and like I said, atmosphere is key here.  And lets not forget how damn cool it is to watch people get attacked by giant  vampire bats, that always rates high in my book! You could do a lot worse.  But even Ti can do better. And does.  Somehow though, this movie ranked as one of the Top 10 Movies of 2005 by Bloody-Disgusting.  Was 2005 really that bad of a year for horror?

* By all means though, stick around for the extras, which include Ti West's student film: Prey, as well as an interesting little piece on bats that debunks them as creatures of horror and helps to educate on what an important and valuable asset they are!  Bat conservation rocks!


Marie said...

You know I love me some Ti West! He has got the two most recent posts practically dedicated to him! Don't plan on seeing this anytime soon, but I do love the poster!! And bats, of course. I was just thinking of getting a bat tattoo (battoo?) next ;)

Christine Hadden said...

Oh yes! Get the bat tattoo!
I love bats. I have a bat pillow on my bed and a little stuffed vampire bat hanging from my rear-view mirror. I love the little guys (or big, as the case may be).

And yeah, you can skip this one until it hits the Instant Watch on Netflix....

The Film Connoisseur said...

wow, I've found someone who agrees with about Ty West! I don't think the guys all that, I mean, he achieves a lot with small budgets, but his films are so freaking boring! Recently saw The Inkeepers....but was bored to tears, nothing happened! Argh! Maybe he can pull off something better with more money...but so far, I think of his films, House of the Devil is the one I've enjoyed the most. So far. Thanks for the warning.

Christine Hadden said...

TFC: Yep, I would definitely agree with you that House of the Devil was the one I too, have enjoyed the most. But damn, even it was so sloooowww. Like I said, atmosphere is one thing, boredom another.
And I do think this one could be skipped - though I like the little bat conservation lecture at the end! :)

jervaise brooke hamster said...
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Anonymous said...

I wouldn't mind the bats but the carry so many viruses the will kill.