Run time: 80 mins
In Theaters: Friday 13th January 2006
Distributed by: Digital Cinema Solutions
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Fresh: 10 Rotten: 9
IMDB: 4.9 / 10
Director: Ti West
Producer: Susan Leber
Screenwriter: Ti West
The Roost follows four kids en route to a wedding, lost during the dead of night in some rural backwoods. In time-honored horror movie tradition, their car breaks down and they're left near an abandoned farmhouse and barn with no resources at their disposal -- their cell phone is dead from over-use. West dallies a bit too much during this part of the movie, since we never really get to know any of these characters very well.
In that sense, The Roost is less John Carpenter and more of a throwback to more B-movie slasher flicks like The Prowler or Friday the 13th. But during that time, we get used to a certain mood and style of filmmaking: handheld cinematography, low lighting within an all-pervasive darkness, and deep, grainy pictures. By the time a swarm of vampire bats descend upon the kids and the local sheriff (John Speredakos, cast in that classic "What are you kids doing out here?" role that screams Dead Meat), The Roost is locked and loaded. It becomes all about basic horror film technique: Can we make it to the set of car keys before the bats get us, and if we do, can we make it to the car? How long will we be safe inside this section of the barn, and what's that sound overhead?
That's the delight and catharsis of good scary movies. And West absolutely knows how to deliver on that most simple, basic level. It's fun to be scared, and refreshing to have a horror filmmaker interested in delivering on those shocks. Unlike the lousy remake of The Fog, West never overexplains the horror. He just lets it play out. He doesn't try to dazzle with state-of-the-art pyrotechnics, but instead gets that simple presentation can go a long way. (That said, the bats, designed by a team called Quiet Man, look like the real thing.)
Of course, sinister bats would be bad enough, but West also indulges in a penchant for gore and has the bat victims transform into flesh-eating zombies. When he's through being scary, he goes for the good old-fashioned gross-out. By the time he reaches his climax with the survivors trying to make it across the bridge to safety, The Roost has taken you on a gleeful funhouse ride. Anyone who says they don't make 'em like they used to just isn't looking hard enough.
The DVD includes a making-of featurette, a vignette on bats, and a student film from West.