Director: Joel Edgerton
Starring: Jason Bateman, Joel Edgerton, Rebecca Hall
‘The Gift’ has gone under the radar for a lot of people, even for myself initially. It wasn’t until I saw a billboard advertisement that I decided to investigate further, and upon said investigation, I decided that ‘The Gift’ sounded like the perfect film for me and my partner to go and see. We like our films dark, twisted and unnerving, and Joel Edgerton’s directorial debut was indeed a gift in all aspects.
The plot is simple, but quite difficult to explain at the same time without giving too much away. Simon (Jason Bateman) is a man that has everything going for him. He is very successful in terms of career and has a loving and caring wife, Robyn (Rebecca Hall). When the couple move to California after Simon’s promotion, a man from Simon’s past appears. Gordo (Joel Edgerton) is a socially awkward individual who tries to make his rediscovered friend feel welcome in his new home. Simon and Robyn soon begin to doubt that Gordo’s good intentions are as heartfelt as they seem, and Robyn’s quest to uncover the truth about the history between the two men uncovers some dark secrets as everything begins to spiral out of control.
As I said before, it’s really hard to do this film justice in terms of a review without giving away all the major plot spoilers, as a lot of the shock factor that makes this film so successful is reliant on events within the narrative. So you’ll just have to watch it to find out what I’m talking about, but believe me when I say that the narrative is fantastic, and the twist at the end is absolutely magnificent. Despite the plot being somewhat predictable in places, as a viewer, you never feel like you can completely predict what’s coming next. It’s that sort of film. It lures you down one path and then is quite capable of springing a surprise or two along the way. The slight problem I had with the film was that it is the definition of a slow burner. It certainly takes a while for the drama to start happening, but once it does, it doesn’t look back.
As ‘The Gift’ is a film produced by Blumhouse Productions – responsible for the likes of ‘Insidious’ and ‘Paranormal Activity’ – I was definitely expecting a scare or two, and it certainly didn’t disappoint in that respect either. There are jumpy moments that had the whole cinema screaming. Yet on the whole I wouldn’t describe this film as a horror at all. It’s definitely more of a psychological thriller. It has the typical horror setting; narrow corridors, and plenty of rotating camera shots where you’re expecting someone to appear from nowhere. As a result, the whole experience is thoroughly unnerving. A contributing factor to this is the fact that 80% of the film is filmed inside Simon and Robyn’s house. So as a viewer, you feel like the attacks on their house is an attack on you. Their house is a safe sanctuary throughout the early parts of the film, the place where they and us alike feel a sense of security, but as Gordo’s twisted games unfold, that sanctuary becomes a place of nightmares.
The characterisation within the film is brilliant, and it takes you on a roller coaster of emotions all the way through. I liked and loathed all three of the main characters at least once, and whilst a lot of that is due to the character narratives, this is also down to the standards of acting. Horror style films tend to fall victim to some horrendous acting and when I originally saw Jason Bateman’s name on the bill for a horror-thriller, I immediately feared the worst, but he is fantastic. Rebecca Hall is equally as adept at portraying a mentally unstable housewife. The star of the show however, in every respect, is Joel Edgerton. If his performance as the deranged Gordo wasn’t impressive enough, the fact that this is his feature length writing and directorial debut adds to the awe. If this is anything to go by, we can expect wonderful things from Edgerton in the future.
I went to see this film two weeks after its release date, and in this particular cinema the film is being shown just once a day for the next week. I cannot believe that this film has not caused more of a stir and I can’t fathom why it hasn’t been posted on every bus stop and had its trailers shoved in our faces on every terrestrial channel. Talking to friends and colleagues, hardly anyone had even heard of it, and it’s a real shame that this is not getting the attention it deserves. Psychological thrillers are a difficult genre to get right; ‘The Gift’ absolutely nails it and all on a reported $5m budget. It’s not perfect, but it’s a pretty impressive effort and I encourage all of you to go and see it before it’s taken out of the cinemas and replaced by something more mainstream and appealing to the mass market. I can only hope that this will be one of those films that gathers popularity and becomes more appreciated as public consensus warms over the years. A hidden gem, and the film you didn’t know you had to see this summer. Simon says…watch ‘The Gift’.