2005. Directed by Ti West.
Ti West's first feature film, The Roost is an excellent low budget, minimalist horror yarn.
The film begins with an intro for a weekend late night horror show, hosted by the legendary Tom Noonan. Tonight's feature, The Roost, is a tale about four friends who are driving to a Halloween wedding when they are involved in a near fatal wreck. They traverse the woods looking for help and come to an old, crumbling farmhouse with a curious barn. Once they inevitably split up to search the grounds, things quickly go awry.
One of the most interesting aspects of the film was the black and white horror program that book ends the story. Both scenes are framed as if they are being viewed on an old television and the sets are filled with various throwbacks to cult horror cinema programs. When combined with Jeff Grace's creepy score, these segments along with the entire film permeate a feeling of dread.
The more is less approach of this film is easily it's biggest strength. It would be easy to argue that this is tied to the budget, but I think it was a conscience choice by West to leave almost all of the violence off screen and implied. While there is some gore, this is a bare bones effort. There are no philosophical questions being raised. The characters are cliche' and ultimately doomed by their humanity.
Jeff Robbin's cinematography is grainy, brown, and dull, like the various corpses that slowly pile up as the film progresses. He uses extremely tight and often confusing angles to keep the bloodshed in the dark but also to admirably mimic the fear and isolation that the character's are experiencing. A great compliment to this is David Bell's production design. Starting with a long take inside the car at the preface, The Roost has a distinctive style. The inside of the car, filled with red and blue faux neons highlights the faces of the would be victims just enough to let their random dialogue make contextual sense. Furthermore when the film changes locales to the farmhouse, the same style of barely illuminated continues. The lights are placed with deliberate purpose, using the camera and the geography of the filming location to keep everything in the shadows. It's done so well that new lights only bring more shadows, echoing the hopeless predicament of the main quartet.
Given that this was West's first feature film, it obviously has many flaws. However, it's very interesting to begin with this film and then watch as West evolves and improves with each successive effort, leading him towards being one of the most competent horror directors working today.
Available now on DVD.