Ti West (2005 80 min, 16mm, 1.85)
Tom Noonan, Wil Horneff, Vanessa Horneff, Karl Jacob, Sean Read, John Speredakos, Larry Fessenden, Barbara Wilheid, and Richard Little
Following a near-death car accident, four friends on their way to a Halloween wedding,venture to a secluded farm for help. Little do they know however, they will soon disturb an ancient evil with far more ghastly plans in store for them!
In the true spirit of classic horror cinema, The Roost revisits the land of low budget offerings with a fresh independent look… sure to put a demented smile on the faces of Fright Fans Everywhere!
…Halloween, zombies, vampire bats, thunder and lightning
and just not really knowing where this scary ride is taking you
that make “The Roost” a must-see.
AIN'T IT COOL NEWS
March 21, 2005
My first reaction to this horror film was that it was brilliant. Perhaps it was because I saw it at the Alamo Drafthouse at midnight with a few drinks to accompany it and a packed house of appreciative fans to provide a laugh/scream track, but even if it’s not brilliant, it’s still the best zombie bat movie I’ve ever seen. The film I’d compare it to most immediately is Cabin Fever – although this is a bit more straightforward, and sufficiently scarier, it has that same morbid sense of humor. Director Ti West shot the film on a stock so grainy you can practically count the specks of emulsion on the film, and this adds a wonderfully old fashioned, low budget feel to the picture. It takes a while to get going, but once it does, it’s consistently delightful -or, as one of my friends said, groin-grabbingly good.
Eric Campos October 21, 2005
Right off the bat, Ti West’s “The Roost” reminds me of what a guy named Rob Zombie was trying to do with his first feature film, House of 1000 Corpses. Good intentions aside, Zombie’s movie devolved into a big, nonsensical music video stew, where Ti West’s effort, for lack of a better term, keeps it real. “The Roost” is geared to make your Halloween nights all the more creepier.
Due to a bit of car trouble, four friends find themselves stuck out in the middle of nowhere with a spooky old barn their only choice of sanctuary. Yep, you guessed it, these four friends are in some deep caca as this night of terror turns up one dead body after another. Oh yeah, and Tom Noonan plays a Crypt Keeper type horror host that checks in here and there to make sure the audience is still along for the ride. Gotta love the Noonan.
It’s clear right away that “The Roost” is no hack job. It’s made by people who have a major love for the genre and generally anything that goes bump in the night. The influence of the 80s horror video age is obvious, but what stands out more is the look and feel of a Halloween horror attraction. Sitting through “The Roost” is like taking a nice, long walk through a haunted maze on Halloween night. Those who enjoy frequenting attractions like this will find much to love in “The Roost”. It’s a great date movie, too!
Todd Brown July 24 2005
The advance buzz on Ti West’s debut film The Roost has been simply deafening, with people lining up to proclaim West the next Sam Raimi. Does he have the goods to back that up? According to Philippe Gohier he does …
Of course, the movie is set on Halloween night. Of course, the four attractive teenagers driving to a friend’s wedding get their car stuck in a ditch. Of course, they set out on foot and find an abandoned country house, with an adjacent vampire-bat-infested barn. Of course, none of them seem to have any idea what will follow. Of course, we do.
Riding confidently on a crest of clichés, Ti West’s feature film debut succeeds not in spite of its hokey horror-pastiche premise, but rather because of it. From its opening sequence, with a midnight-movie styled intro and crypt-keeper host, to the campy gore that follows, West shows us that there is nothing wrong with the horror-movie archetype as long it’s crafted right.
Borrowing loosely from the tradition that spawned Evil Dead and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Roost tracks the terror that awaits Allison, Elliot, Trevor, and Brian once they ditch their car to find help. That they fall prey to bloody, mangled zombies and bloodthirsty bats should be expected by anyone in attendance. That they fall prey to West’s fantastically lurid vision is how the points are scored.
Despite its gory special effects, fast-paced editing, and shaky handheld-camera shots, West’s success is mostly derived from his restraint. In one particularly frightening scene, West keeps the camera on a flashlight – away from the action – letting the audience’s imagination do the work for him. (He or she was wise who once said that there is nothing quite as sordid as the mind of a censor…) Exemplifying the restraint West will show throughout the film, the scene places West securely on the right side of the cheap scares vs. legitimate fright dichotomy. Rather than exploiting his audience for mere surprise-scare tacticts, The Roost commits itself to generating the kind of the paranoid fear found only in the films which have evidently served as inpiration to West.
West’s restraint also allows him to keep an impressive tunnel-vision-like focus on his victims, detailing every step of their agony. As the four become increasingly isolated from each other, they gradually succumb to primal emotions, ranging from bouts of violent paranoia to spells of absolute stasis. The slow emotional degradation of the characters is absolutely essential in establishing the legitimacy of their distress.
Unfortunately, the flow of the film is somewhat interrupted in the middle of the descent into depravity when West cuts to a sequence with the crypt-keeper. The film had managed, by this point, to outgrow its initial homage qualities and stand on its own. It is perhaps West’s modesty that got the best of him, as he sought to remind viewers of the tradition that inspired him; it nevertheless proves to be a rare display of self-indulgent nostalgia. Moreover, the film does not contain distinct halves that need to have their merits set apart from each other.
Thankfully, the plot plows through crypt-keeper sequence, and the momentary distraction is long-forgotten by the wildly captivating ending. Besides, much of the film’s charm emanates from its setting rather than its kitsch value. Though the “midnight movie” vibe certainly gives it a contemporary feel, its generic, unidentifiable setting is much more integral to its ambient paranoia. The tight shots and rapid-fire editing portray the farm house as essentially rural; it is, at once, like every distant local and like none other. As such, it becomes dizzyingly foreign and familiar, simultaneously close and distant..
Indeed, combined with an immaculate score, the clever use of special effects, and West’s disciplined, deft direction, The Roost shows that West needn’t shine a light on anyone else’s work to make his own seem brighter.
Elaine Lamkin 20 January 2008
“The Roost” is a wonderful Super 16-mm throwback to the 1970s horror so many of us love and miss. The first feature film for director Ti West, with Glass Eye Pix’s Larry Fessenden serving as executive producer (as well as playing the tow-truck driver in the film), if I hadn’t known this was a brand new release, I would have sworn I really was watching an old 70s horror movie. Set on Halloween, the film opens in black and white with Tom Noonan, who many will remember as “The Tooth Fairy” in “Manhunter”, as the host of a late night horror movie show, “Frightmare Theater”. The twist is that “The Roost” is the film we viewers are going to be seeing.
The film opens with four friends on their way late on Halloween night to another friend’s wedding. Elliot (Wil Horneff, “The Shining”, “Ghost in the Machine”) and his sister Allison (played by real-life sister Vanessa Horneff), along with Brian (Sean Reid, Ti West’s “The Wicked”) and Trevor (Karl Jacob, “In Justice”) are driving the back roads of rural Delaware when they have an accident near a bridge and their car is stuck. The only element introduced that makes you realize this is NOT a 1970s film is the characters trying to reach someone on a cell phone but thankfully that attempt doesn’t occur too often. Plus, actor Sean Reid looks as though he stepped right out of a 1975 high school yearbook with his long, floppy hair. Knowing they have to start hoofing it to find help, the four set off down the road and eventually come across a farm. Earlier in the film, we are introduced to the elderly couple who live here, May (Barbara Wilhide) and her husband Elvin (Richard Little). They are preparing to leave to visit relatives but May makes the fatal error of asking Elvin to make sure the barn is locked up. It is not clear why May and Elvin don’t know what is IN the barn but apparently they didn’t.
Our four characters reach the house and unsuccessfully try to rouse someone to help them, thinking there must be someone home as the porch is still lit and there is a truck in the driveway. Elliot and Trevor decide to check things out, leaving Allison and Brian to wait on the porch. At this point, all bets are off as Elliot and Trevor manage to flag down a cop who brings them back to the house. People begin disappearing, there is an attack by a flock of bats, which drives folks into the creepy barn, and from there on, the scares start multiplying. An interesting note is that the barn used in “The Roost” is the same one used by Alfred Hitchcock in his film, “Marnie” and at times, Jeff Grace’s score reminded me of both the screeching violins of Bernard Herrmann’s score for “Psycho” and the menacing cues from Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead”. The sound design by Graham Reznick also reminded me somewhat of “Evil Dead” but there were other spooky effects that came into play as well. One clever element in the film was the playing of a horror radio show which was heard every time a vehicle was on screen – you might have to turn up the volume to hear it but it’s a fun little extra. And that’s director Ti West voicing “The Professor” on the show.
The cinematography by Eric Robbins is perfect for this film as it has a “washed-out” yellowish hue to it that makes it look like the old film it’s pretending to be. The barn is scary as hell with all it levels and doorways and hiding places and the production design by David Bell only heightens the sense of menace. The special digital effects by Quiet Man are great – I certainly didn’t see “bat wrangler” in the credits.
There are quite a few scares in the movie and some gore but it’s more the atmosphere of foreboding and fright along with a full moon, Halloween, zombies, vampire bats, thunder and lightning and just not really knowing where this scary ride is taking you that make “The Roost” a must-see.
June 18, 2005
One always has to be careful when recommending low-budget horror. There can be quite a danger, call it Blair Witch syndrome, that when a critic praises something that’s creatively done with little money, horror fans will flock to it and say “That was fuckin’ lame! How come we never got to see the witch?”
So, to begin with a caveat: THE ROOST is indeed low budget, and the vast majority of its scares are achieved with sound and cutaways. It also drags in places — this slowness is deliberate, but for my taste it could stand to be tightened up a bit.
That, and it’s not about killer roosters, which is a bit of a disappointment. Someone needs to make a killer rooster flick.
But what’s best about THE ROOST is its imagination — there are some very creative turns and things I honestly did not expect. Can anyone say that about, for instance, BOOGEYMAN, or THE AMITYVILLE HORROR remake?
Writer-director Ti West set out to make this as a tribute to the ‘80s slasher films he would watch on video late at night when he was younger (according to imdb, he’s 24 now). As such, the film is not only shot, lit, and styled like an ‘80s film that’s degraded a bit on VHS, but there’s also a framing device, a TV horror host on “Channel 13” who introduces the film on a cheesy haunted house set (actually a carnival ghost train ride at Rehoboth Beach in Delaware — I’ve been there!). The host is played by Tom Noonan, which is a nice casting coup. Though more restrained than, say, the Crypt Keeper, he does make the usual bad puns.
Not content to pay tribute just to local TV horror host clichés and ‘80s slashers, West also creates an old-style radio drama that plays in the background during any scene involving a car radio (West himself does one of the voices on this show).
The movie’s story is pretty simple — four youngsters en route to a wedding in the middle of the night decide to take a short-cut, wreck the car, and discover a barn full of killer bats. I did find myself wondering how a feature could be sustained by four people being killed by bats, but midway through there’s a surprising development that kicks things up a notch, and one that totally threw me. No doubt many people who write about the movie will give it away, but not me. If you want to be truly surprised, and you should, avoid too many other reviews on the subject.
The actors are mostly newcomers — I’d say the most potential breakout among the leads is Vanessa Horneff, who has the sullen charm of Scarlett Johansson with a little Heather Donahue (BLAIR WITCH – whatever happened to her?) thrown in.
The movie is produced by Larry Fessenden, the art-house horrormeister who directed WENDIGO and HABIT. Though his movies have never quite caught on in a huge way, he’s steadily carving out his own niche, and funding low-budget projects like this one along the way. His influence, even subconsciously, is here — at times, THE ROOST feels very much like one of Fessenden’s more leisurely paced, less direct horror style, while at others it’s more conventional (during one scene that’s especially slow-paced, Noonan’s host interrupts, complains, and literally rewinds the movie so that the scene can be done over. This is achieved much more effectively than a similar scene in the BEWITCHED movie). Certainly the score is very old-school — composer Jeff Grace deserves credit for at least 50% of the scares, with his skittery, jumpy music that adds stings to moments obvious and not-so-obvious.
As for the bats — well done. I figured they had to be CGI because I couldn’t imagine that West had the money to make practical bats that do what these ones do, and I was right, but they don’t look CG at all.
Noonan returns at the very end with a surprise, followed by end credits that even follow the ‘80s formula of having a cheesy would-be hit single play over them. Sit through the credits, there’s more after.
West joked after the screening that he wasn’t sure he’d ever get to make another movie. I don’t think I’m going out on a limb to say that, provided he wants to make another one, he isn’t going to be stopped.
THE ROOST is produced by Susan Leber, formerly of MARGARITA HAPPY HOUR. The Associate Producer, James (Monsterpants) McKenney, is also the mastermind behind the Glass Eye Pix production, THE OFF SEASON. Special Visual Effects are in the hands of Glass Eye Pix Art Director Brahm Revel, formally of various WENDIGO projects. Director of Photography is Eric Robbins, Makeup is by Daniel J. Mazikowski. Digital Effects are provided by Quiet Man and coordinated by Glenn McQuaid. The film was photographed in glorious super 16mm.
Executive Produced by Larry Fessenden’s (Habit, Wendigo) award winning production company Glass Eye Pix. The Roost is the feature film debut of Writer/Director/Editor Ti West. West has already completed several 16mm short subject horror films and won the award for “Best Director of a Student Film” in the 2001 N.Y. Int’l Independent Film Festival. His short film THE WICKED was incredibly well received at all of its many film festival screenings, including Slamdance Anarchy Film Festival in March of 2002. It is currently being distributed by Doug Liman’s (Swingers, The Bourne Identity) company HYPNOTIC and continues to play in film festivals nationwide.
Produced by Susan Leber (“Down to the Bone” – Winner of the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Best Director and Best Actress, 2003). Associate produced by James McKenney (The Off Season) and Peter Phok.
Special Visual Effects by Glass Eye Pix Art Director Brahm Revel, Makeup by Daniel J. Mazikowski, and Digital Effects provided by Quiet Man (Coordinated with Glenn McQuaid).
The Roost was photographed in glorious Super 16mm on location in Wilmington Delaware and Kennett Square Pennsylvania in October 2003.