After a freak car accident grounds four friends in the countryside boonies, they run afoul of vicious crimson-sucking bats in a nearby barn. Finding the entire property abandoned (at first), they can only pray for dawn's break...and try to fed off the re-animated victims of the nocturnal fang...
One gets the feeling a good portion of those that have dismissed Ti West's The Roost may have done so out of seeing the filmmaker's first "feature" without the proper mindset. Stripping away the superfluous late night creature feature segments featuring Tom Noonan as host and hokey credit sequences, this shot-on-16mm "film" is more akin to a short subject that hovers just over a hour.
When looking at West's work in this light, Roost becomes an impressive rustic slice of atmospheric, low-budget horror, but it's a considerable disappointment if expecting an everyday feature-length effort. Paramount's DVD cover also doesn't help by making the film appear a cross between From Dusk Till Dawn and the Lou Diamond Phillips bomb Bats. The original theatrical posters, seen here, do a much better job at selling what West intended.
Is this spooky "lo-fi" sell accomplished? Not quite. The late night television horror feature bookends feel tacked on with Noonan's uninspired delivery seeming more a courtesy than anything serious unlike his patented chilly soft-spoken turn in West's later House of the Devil. Actually, Roost is less a wannabe midnight horror staple than it is one of the best "living" homages to Sam Raimi's low-budget terror criterion The Evil Dead.
That's to not say that West rips off the 1981 classic, instead The Roost synthesizes its sensibilities while wearing the influence on its sleeve with honor. Like Ashley's first tango with demons, West's constant construction of building dread and cold nighttime desolation takes priority over the actual (CGI-crafted) winged threat. Demons or bats or maniacal persons possessed by said demons or bats is one thing, but the fear of the unknown beyond is universal, omnipresent, and everlasting.
This is Roost's greatest strength and also its greatest weakness. Unlike Raimi's feature-length debut, there is no transcendence into a lasting, rousing experience. Everything is bottlenecked by its single-mindedness, but what West accomplishes here is admirably done despite the pinpoint focus forced by clock and monetary constraint. Just keep in mind Roost feels like a one-page draft with pencil marks in margins that all speak to larger unseen ideas and the 80 minutes becomes much more fulfilling in an earnest sense. It might be interesting to see West eventually revisit this concept with a fleshed out take; the young filmmaker has certainly proved a scare conjurer with House of the Devil and it would be serendipitous for his mainstream break to occur with what originally placed him on the map to genre fans.