It's a cliche to say so, but what the hell-everyone remembers spending their weekend nights renting movies on VHS to kill some time, especially horror movies. I would know-I used to work at a video rental back in the day, and one of the perks of that job was getting to rent old horror titles. Sometimes they'd be great ("The Evil Dead", "Night of the Creeps", etc.) other times they'd be awful ("Splatter Farm", "Curse of the Screaming Dead") but either way, it was a fun way to spend a Friday night. These days, a lot of movies try to capture the feeling of those days of rentals past, but few director's know how to do it. Ti West is an exception to the rule though-he understands what makes horror movies work, especially the ones of old. He proved it with the excellent "The House of the Devil", and he proved it earlier with his directorial debut "The Roost."
The plot is essentially a movie within a movie-a horror show host (The ever reliable Tom Noonan) is here to present a little horror movie called "The Roost." That movie deals with four friends who find themselves stranded in the middle of nowhere, and end up at an old barn. Thing is, said barn has itself some vampire bats-bats that turn anyone they bite into ravenous, almost zombie like killers.
The plot itself is nothing new to say the least, but that's part of what makes it so fun. You've seen a movie like "The Roost" before, and it knows that. This is exactly the kind of movie I used to rent back in the day, and the whole thing just fills me with fond memories and nostalgia. Fortunately, the movie has more than nostalgia going for it. Like "The House of the Devil", West understands the importance of suspense, and he milks every moment for what it's worth with bouts of violence (both seen and implied-this isn't the goriest movie) and an excellent score by Jeff Grace, which helps to amplify the tension.
If it does have any flaws, it would be one moment in which West for some reason or another feels the need to stop the action for the host to interrupt, letting the audience know he finds the affection on display noxious. While I get the joke, it still feels a bit too smart alecey for it's own good. Also, the Horrorcore Rap song at the end credits is utterly appalling.
That out of the way, "The Roost" is a fun debut that hints at things to come, and should be right at home for guys like me who rented movies like "Scarecrows" and "The House on Sorority Row" on VHS back in the day. Check it out.