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PARK CITY — Black humor turns comically darker in twisty quasi-suspenser The Perfect Host. Although late revelations skew earlier thrills, co-writer/director Nick Tomnay‘s feature debut should find suitable opportunities to entertain on both cable and DVD.
For reasons fleshed out in somewhat unevenly presented flashbacks, John (Clayne Crawford) finds law enforcement in unexpectedly hot pursuit after robbing an L.A. bank. Desperate to get off the streets, he cons his way into an upscale residential home, pretending to be a friend of owner Warwick’s (David Hyde Pierce) gal pal Julia. Warwick’s casually strategic questioning quickly exposes John’s subterfuge and he’s forced to escalate the encounter into a full-scale home invasion, holding Warwick hostage with a kitchen carving knife while he tries to devise an exit strategy.
Distracted and drinking too much wine, John underestimates his host’s resourcefulness and shortly finds himself drugged and bound as Warwick’s helpless captive. Has he stumbled into a well-appointed serial killer’s lair? Or are Warwick’s multiple-personality issues just run-of-the-mill psychosis? Regardless, events are going to take quite a few more twists before John finds any answers.
Tomnay skillfully shifts the film’s initial tone from suspense to dark comedy so that the transition never feels forced. Tweaking horror conventions raises interest, but plot gaps in the script, co-written with Krishna Jones, gradually erode the story’s plausibility as curiosity diminishes.
Pierce is practically manic as aptly conflicted Warwick, goading Crawford to try and keep pace, with mixed results. Technical credits are strong without distracting from the action.
Venue: Sundance Film Festival
Production: Stacey Testro International, Victor Prods.
Cast: David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford, Nathaniel Parker, Megahn Perry, Helen Reddy
Director: Nick Tomnay
Screenwriters: Nick Tomnay, Krishna Jones
Producers: Stacey Testro & Mark Victor
Executive producer: Martin Zoland
Director of photography: John Brawley
Production designer: Ricardo Jattan
Music: John Swihart
Editor: Nick Tomnay
Sales: Submarine Entertainment, Parlay Media
No rating, 93 minutes
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