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A Perfect Host

The Airbnb owner in “A Perfect Host” is anything but as he ruins a peaceful weekend getaway in a variety of strange and increasingly sinister ways.

Two friends with a tension-filled relationship, Sam and Avery, head to a deserted lake house for a weekend getaway in A Perfect Host (formerly title Adonis Complex).

While the pair share some awkward relationship drama and wait for their friends to join them, they have some uncomfortable encounters with the owner of the rental house, Tad (the excellent Brady Burleson Johnson). Tad first makes an appearance as the pair attempts to settle in, explaining to Sam (Jeff McQuitty) that he’s a minimalist who chooses to live out in the woods rather than in the home he rents out to strangers.

Tad seems innocent enough — if not more than a little strange. But then he shows up in the kitchen first thing the next morning, waking up Sam up while making protein shakes. It’s invasive, but Tad is full of affable charm (and sporting some seriously 90s curtain hair) and shares a sad story about his sick wife.

After forcing a sympathetic Sam to play along with a weirdly violent workout session, Tad then shows up on the lake during Sam and Avery’s canoeing trip, disrupting the peaceful padding session with unwanted horseplay and creepy lines like, “Gotta stay strong – you never know what’s out there…”

As if that isn’t enough, he then forcibly invites himself over for dinner and attempts to push his life philosophy on them, while rambling disjointedly about his wife and the mysterious illness she suffers from. When he tries to aggressively push his health “program” on his guests, Avery (Koko Marshall) begins to get upset.

Tad cranks up the creepy charisma, offering Avery disturbing relationship advice (“I wish you wouldn’t drink so much…especially as a woman”). It’s not long before the situation escalates into increasingly troubling encounters and a macabre discovery that puts both Sam and Avery’s lives in grave danger.

Director and writer Chad Werner melds Pacific Heights with Single White Female, riffing on the theme of the scary (un)invited guest taking over the unsuspecting host. 

One of this low budget thriller’s strongest points is its interesting ‘70s synth score, which blends seamlessly into the 1930s gramophone-style chirpy music, giving it an effectively timeless feel.

The film has a lean runtime, barely more than an hour, and it manages to ramp up quite a bit of tension before its shocking and unexpected finale.

Werner does display a distinct fondness for jump scares, which will please some viewers while turning off others. And while it’s not without some original ideas, this film does indulge in its fair share of horror clichés – like the overly friendly character who we know can’t be trusted, the bad guy who is seemingly vanquished only to lurch back to life one more time, and leisurely shots of apparently peaceful and deserted landscapes where no one can hear you scream.

Underlying the fairly straightforward thriller about a mentally unstable man who terrorizes his unsuspecting guests, there are some interesting ideas about eugenics and the pursuit of physical perfection.

A Perfect Host combines dark comedy and horror. And while it doesn’t come closer to perfection on either front, it’s still an interesting and thought-provoking, low budget thriller that takes care not to overstay its welcome.

Overall Rating (Out of 5 Butterflies): 3

Written by Nina Romain

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