It is always interesting to reflect back to see a director’s first movie, knowing where they have transcended, and that man is Ti West with respect to his extremely low-budget B-movie, presenting his horror knowledge for the fans. This film honestly doesn’t contain all the thrills, and chills, that one expects in the horror genre, but it’s here where one sees the initial strength he has in directorial debut. West also serves as screenwriter, which normally he does with his projects, and this first at bat, truly goes batty quite nicely as he evokes a bit of Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963). However, one can’t overlook the short running time of 80-minutes this actually slightly incorrect as the film contains a bookend storyline and intermission, which all resembles a light night television hosting show found on public broadcasting networks or now on YouTube.
We received an intro to an elderly couple who live here, May (Barbara Wilhide) and her husband Elvin (Richard Little), leaving to visit relatives but Elvin makes the awful venture to make sure the barn (same one from Marnie (1954)) is locked up. This couple finds, unwanted visitors on the property, and very unhappy to leave to coop. The Roost simply puts the trusted method of having friends on their journey to a wedding (it could easily be a concert, party, or even a camping trip) on Halloween (why, it doesn’t matter) after an accident they find themselves stranded and head off in search of help in the darkness of the night, aided by some flashlights. They venture in the eerie darkness siblings Elliot (Will Horneff) and Allison (Vanessa Horneff) led their group to that same farmhouse. This also finds itself as part of a late night program in black and white hosted by the talented Tom Noonan, known for his role in Manhunter (1986) among many others. Back to the movie, the group of course split up, finding a police officer, more fodder to the small body count, all done in by infected bats who zombified their victims. Minimal and bloody as they come though the makeup work on the Officer Mitchell (John Speredakos, The Mind’s Eye (2015)) close up does look nice under the lights. The entire film fits very quick production, and a bit of campy fun added into the mix, never spinning into the Scream with bold face meanings to other films very subtle.
West likely knew his actual script fell a little short of a full movie, hence the creation of television host aspect, which works strangely nice; it of course definitely helps the movie achieve a positive runtime, however not without a problem. That comes from an odd intermission, and then uses the movie to reverse course, by literally backing the film up and choosing a different path away a soul touching moment, it feels like a book where you choose the various possible conclusions. In addition, one can observe and compare to his later works, this one doesn’t contain much character development, leaving them extremely thin and cardboard flimsy, and hard to really invest the energy in caring about them. The speed of film, has a few slower pace moments, but the cast does its best to fit themselves into the roles and make for best results, as it all shows the near zero funds for the flick. However, one very good aspect, knowing your limitations as both a filmmaker and budget scale, used what you got to the fullest, the location of the barn, darkened areas, creaks, low lights, and Bernard Herrmann’s legendary strings to provide frenzied sound like that of fingernails on chalkboard.
The Roost, made it to point of a successful distribution with a DVD release, and thanks to the production from Glass Eye Pix, which is owned by filmmaker Larry Fessenden, who also starred in the film as the tow truck driver. This film, presents a nice introduction to Ti West who later directed among other movies, The House of the Devil (also from Fessenden’s company) showing him as a rising talent in the horror genre. While the film contains minimal usage of gore, and very few scares, it does provide some shrieks for those that suffer from chiroptophobia, for them avoid the wing bats, and stick to the ding bats of lesser quality horror flicks.