Film Review: The Perfect Host

Recommended to those who like being endlessly led down filmic garden paths devoid of logic or empathy.

Wounded L.A. bank robber John (Clayne Crawford) seeks refuge in the posh home of piss-elegant Warwick (David Hyde Pierce), after pretending to have a mutual friend with him. When Warwick eventually divines John’s subterfuge, things escalate to the point where John holds his unwilling host hostage at knifepoint. The tables are turned when Warwick proves no easy prey, and regains mastery of the game. And this is only the beginning of The Perfect Host’s innumerable plot twists.

Rookie director Nick Tomnay may feel he is onto something fresh and startling here, but my mind kept flashing back to James Kirkwood’s 1972 play (and subsequent film), P.S. Your Cat Is Dead, which also had a gambit of intruder + unwilling host = hostage situation, rife with violent and homoerotic overtones. These kinds of malevolent two-handers play better onstage than onscreen, where a certain claustrophobia and monotony can set in, unless offset by bravura acting and fiendishly clever writing.

Despite Hyde Pierce’s strenuous Waldo Lydecker meets (improbably) Dirty Harry efforts, The Perfect Host possesses little of these helpful attributes, substituting instead a plethora of red herrings and alienating flashbacks which merely try your patience. The sadomasochistic outrageousness, serial-killer hints and switcheroos keep tiresomely piling on, and one soon ceases to care about what happens to anyone.

Crawford is devoid of charisma, which might have had you rooting for him in his hapless plight, while Megahn Perry as his accomplice in crime is completely colorless, no tantalizing Mary Astor-esque noir dame at all. Playing investigative cops, Nathaniel Parker and Joseph Will are amateurish, and the bizarrely cast onetime pop-music star Helen Reddy (“I Am Woman”) doesn’t get much chance to prove she can still roar as a Jehovah’s Witness-believing, meddling neighbor.