The Horror Honeys: The Perfect Host: Just Turn Yourself In, Man!

The Perfect Host: Just Turn Yourself In, Man!

A Slasher Honey Review by Chassity

The Perfect Host (2010)

There’s a lot of ground to cover with this one. So let’s just get right into it.

I adore Clayne Crawford. I do, in pretty much everything I’ve seen him in - especially in Swimfan. So I had to check out The Perfect Host upon realizing he was starring in it. I say all this because the very reason I actually like Clayne ended up having a lot to do with this movie’s theme, and why I enjoyed it so much. But more on that in a minute.

When I researched this movie and checked out the trailer, I was under the impression that it was going to be a basic “home-invasion-gone-wrong-turned-torture-porn”  flick. Which would have been perfect for me, because I’ve always found torture porn movies to be lumped in with slashers.

But it was not that at all. Living in the realm of psychological horror, there’s very little actual violence and gore, especially compared to what I was expecting. In fact, The Perfect Host is much more of a slow burn with an intense cat-and-mouse game. It’s awkward and painful to watch, but in the very best of ways.

After robbing a bank, John Taylor (Crawford) is on the run and needs a place to hide. He finds himself in a wealthy neighborhood and starts knocking on doors with a sob story about being mugged, trying to get someone to let him in so he can hide out. After being denied by an older woman (a fabulous cameo from feminist icon Helen Reddy) who figures out that he’s lying because he misunderstands her religion, he manages to con his way into the home of a man named Warrick (David Hyde Pierce). By pretending to be a friend of a friend, a woman named Julia (whose name he discovers on a postcard in the mailbox), John gains entry to the house and the show begins. There’s a whole lot of awkward conversation between Warrick and John as John tries to keep his lies straight and Warrick informs him that he’s throwing a dinner party and invites him to stay.

Just as the two are beginning to get along, a news report on the radio about the robbery reveals both some new information to John, and John’s secret to Warrick. And that’s when things really take off. John shows his true colors and tries to gain control of the situation through the expected intimidation tactics. But little does he know the tables are about to turn. Our criminal ends up being the victim; it turns out he’s been drinking drugged wine ever since he arrived at Warrrick’s, and now he’s in for a long night of being toyed with and victimized instead of getting what he wants.

And that brings me to one of the main things I love about this film. In these kinds of movies, guys like John always think they’re so badass and that they’re entitled to use violence to get whatever they want, even though they haven’t earned it. They take pleasure in observing the power they have over the people they’re victimizing. And Clayne Crawford is absolutely stellar at playing these kinds of characters. That’s what he starts off as, here. Of course ultimately he becomes the whimpering victim begging for freedom, and it’s nice to see the matchup between the psychotic lunatic and the violent criminal. The more and more the events of that night go on, the more and more you learn about both John and Warrick and how neither of them are who they appear to be.

Just as the film itself isn’t what it appears to be. But here’s the thing: it’s important to me as the Slasher Honey because it’s the kind of film that has a lot to offer the slasher genre, and there is a lot to be learned if the subgenre is ever going to come back from being a tarnished brand.

Even though it seems like Warrick is in control, there is a constant, underlying push and pull between the two. That’s something that has been missing in slasher movies. The main character is always untouchable until the very end when she’s the only one left and has no choice but to finally fight the slasher. John is on his own the entire time and ultimately it’s a battle of wills.

The slasher genre could also learn from what The Perfect Host does best: create a ton of mystery. Throughout the entire film, the plot actually does thicken. More and more secrets and surprises are revealed, and almost nothing is what it seems to be. There is nothing stopping slasher movies from being more like this except its own formulaic confines. Characters should be fleshed out just as well as John, slashers could be articulate and even…well, eccentric to say the least. Moving away from genre archetypes and plot devices and spending more time on story and less on special effects and gore, and how to successfully do this, is a lesson to be learned here; a lesson that the slasher genre needs more than any subgenre under the umbrella of horror.

None of this is to say that The Perfect Host is a perfect movie. It’s somewhat confusing, the part that should have been the climax is an absolute cop-out, and it leaves a lot of important questions unanswered. But part of the appeal and intrigue is that everything starts and ends inconclusively and mysteriously. Chalk it up to the adage “always leave them wanting more.”

Slasher Honey Rating: 5 out of 5 Glasses of Red Wine

The Perfect Host is available via Shudder, Netflix Streaming, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, YouTube VOD, Vudu, Google Play, & blu-ray/DVD

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