"The Perfect Host" is like the work of a fine artist still in development. Its premise shows promise; as does the influence that it took from many films before it. I can't say it all comes into place to make a successful debut feature for its director, Nick Tomnay, but before you just say "no", there are some things, that I'd like to address; which might make you want to reconsider skipping this uneven but slightly engaging dark comedy-thriller. It's a mess, without-a-doubt, but there are plenty of redeeming factors to at least keep it on the good side of decency.
Plenty of people are going to hate this movie. That's what I predict, and I can't blame them. It isn't particularly well-written, it isn't high budget enough to have the actors that you might want to see in the roles presented here, and the tone just isn't to everyone's liking. No doubt, a movie like this one has been made before, and made better; but I was appreciative of the flick's ability to at least deliver some satisfactory morsels, if nothing more. Overall, it's a forgettable but suitably unsettling little movie that is worth seeing if only for the sake of seeing it; since this is a movie that asks to merely exist and doesn't quite get off so easily with its one wish.
The film studies the lives of two men who are seemingly different, but by the end of the film, we are convinced that they're all too alike in both personality and wit. One of these two fine men is John Taylor (Clayne Crawford); an on-the-run fugitive who is shot, robbed, and desperately walking the streets waiting for someone to take him in; allowing him time to think and finally, take action. He tries a few doors until he arrives at one that just kind of seems "right". The person living in the house is Warwick (David Hyde Pierce), an ominous man living alone; claiming to be making preparations for a dinner party he is hosting that night. He is initially kind to John; and the criminal (this is John's only current occupation) treats him with equal respect. However, it becomes apparent that Warwick is preparing for something much bigger; perhaps much different. He encourages John to drink as much wine as he possibly can, and before long; Warwick has John tangled in his dark web of desires and deception.
John is exactly the man we expect him to be for most of the film, while Warwick reveals a much darker, possibly emotionally disturbed being. I'd be more than happy to buy into these characters and invest in the struggles that they are each forced to participate in, but the film makes no attempt to humanize or narratively build on either of the two. The film isn't too good when it comes to plotting; but to call it poorly written would be harsh and untrue criticism. There's some good dialogue that goes on here; especially when it's delivered by Pierce, who delivers some of his best work as Warwick. I won't spoil too much, since you might still be curious about "The Perfect Host" in spite of anything I might have said about it, just don't go in expecting a masterpiece. The film does, however, deliver when it comes to snappy dialogue and clever one-liners; which was enough for me, until the major, distracting flaws began to kick in.
I suppose I was thoroughly enjoying myself; with the appropriately whacky and even surreal dinner sequences taking affect; and Warwick's hidden madness rearing its ugly head towards the audience. However, the film makes a very big mistake by adding in an unnecessary and uninvolving third act; which comes off as just-plain-stupid. It tries one-too-many twists, and it ends on such an anticlimactic, predictable, and overall lame note that it almost ruined the entire film for me. But then, I reflected; I went back. It was then that I realized just how entertaining "The Perfect Host" was before all this derivative shit happened; and this is why I gave it the rating that I did. I don't recommend the film, per se, but like I said; it's got some redeeming qualities worth looking into as long as you have some time to waste. Otherwise, there are better films to watch; tickets and even rental fees are not always cheap. If you can get a hold of this one for free (rental-wise, like I did), then great; you haven't wasted anything. Some of you might even like it more than I did, while others will be left scratching their heads. I like what this film had going for it; but I don't necessarily like films that feel as unfinished and unpolished as this one. However, I do hope that Tomnay goes on and makes better movies. He has the potential to do so. This was just his first film; think of what he can do to improve his already competent technique. I've honestly seen worse independent debut pictures. So this one isn't all that bad.