2005’s The Roost is the feature debut of genre director Ti West and is one of the more unusual takes on zombies, to the extent that I’m not even sure if ‘zombie’ is the right word.
The film is very much an 80s throwback, making a few subtle changes to the well-worn ‘cabin in the woods’ formula; we have a barn instead of a cabin (the same barn which was used by Alfred Hitchcock for Marnie), and while we have the requisite cast of teens on a roadtrip, shockingly they don’t seem to be horny and there is no gratuitous nudity!
The most unusual aspect of the film is a black and white framing device featuring Tom Noonan as the host of a horror anthology TV show, presenting the film. I quite liked this device initially but I think it became less effective each time the character returned. The ‘main feature’ that Noonan is presenting follows four teens who crash their car, go for help, and get more than they bargained for. The farm where they ask for help is the roosting place of a bunch of ravenous bats which attack people, turning them into zombies. This doesn’t make a lot of sense and it’s never explained and part of me thinks West would have been better off picking killer bats or zombies rather than using both, but it’s an original idea so I’m happy enough to go with it.
The other thing that doesn’t make a lot of sense is that much of the rest of the movie is involved with the teens trying to escape and it just doesn’t seem that hard. There’s really not a lot to stop them from leaving. As if aware of this problem, they spend a lot of time arguing and debating about whether they should stay or go, but the rationale for staying seems to be virtually non-existent. Even after going to the trouble of pinning a zombie cop to the ground and viciously beating him so they can get his car keys, they still fail to walk out the door. It’s also slightly weird when one of them receives a phone call on her mobile, because it begs the question; you have a phone?! Why the hell didn’t you call someone?! Weirder still is the fact that even after receiving a call, they still don’t make one.
Horror is always a divisive genre amongst film fans but West is an interesting director because he divides the horror fan community itself. Partly it’s an age gap but also one of taste. Classic horror fans tend to have little time for the ‘quiet, quiet, BANG!’ approach that dominates in films like The Roost. They’ll also point out that there’s nothing new here, it’s all been borrowed from somewhere else. Other horror fans (usually the younger ones) love West’s shock and gore tactics and don’t mind that he borrows from older films (perhaps because they haven’t seen them). There’s certainly nothing subtle about West’s approach, at any given point the music will tell you exactly what you’re meant to be feeling (there’s a violinist working his ass off throughout to keep you tense) and the characters are little more than pawns to be scared and then killed, which does make it hard to invest in the story as a whole. But there’s no doubt that West knows his audience and right from this first effort he delivers what they’re looking for.
Despite a few novel touches, The Roost is not going to win over anyone who very specifically isn’t a fan of West’s type of filmmaking, it’s just too generic. For those who are West fans, this isn’t House of the Devil, but it’s a perfectly enjoyable film that will make you jump but won’t make you think.
The Roost was premiered at tech and arts conference South by Southwest in 2005, and has since been screened at a number of other film festivals, before being released to DVD in 2006.
Watch the trailer for ‘The Roost’:
Watch the full movie:
|Get the film at Amazon.com|
|Get the film at Amazon.co.uk|
Written by: Robin Bailes