By Marc S. Sanders
Blumhouse Pictures had a monster year in 2017 with the release of Jordan Peele’s smash hit thriller Get Out. It was by no means some slasher film for cheap scares. It built on those typical shocks to deliver a message over a well-crafted three act storyline that commented on present day race relations while the action of it all knocked the hell out of you. Get Out was one of my favorite films of that year.
Having just watched Joel Edgerton’s The Gift from 2015, I see a pattern from Blumhouse. This is a company intent on making high grade material on very small budgets. This company knows how to spend its money wisely, while showing you something that looks familiar but is altogether new.
Edgerton wrote and costars in The Gift as a stranger who intrudes on the life of a happy couple with a promising future, played with great chemistry by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall.
Casting Bateman and Hall was a smart move. In other respective efforts from both actors, they are at their best by giving the less is more approach to their resume of performances. In this film, they come off as nothing special really when the film begins; happy and minding their own business. It’s important because it enhances the disruption of Edgerton’s character, Gordo “the weirdo.” All that Gordo is doing is being friendly by leaving gifts on the couple’s doorstep. Harmless, really, but I found my own instincts on alert. The question is, however, was I ever right to question my instincts in the first place.
The Gift is a top notch psychological thriller. Do Edgerton and Blumhouse follow the same trite cliches of suspense films like this though? That’s what is eye catching about the film. You really don’t know how developments are going to end up until the movie is completely over. For the most part, this film is wildly unpredictable.
I really liked it. It was a new kind of disturbed piece written with foreshadowed detail by Edgerton. He writes with common, nervously laughable awkwardness for his couple to struggle with. This new guy is only signing his cards with happy faces and leaving gifts. What’s so wrong about that?
Edgerton’s direction is just as fine with wide shots during the daytime suburban scenes to offer comfort for Hall’s housewife character, and a narrow lens to unsettle you as you peer down a dark endless hallway. For cripes sakes, it’s only your house. Is your new house really that scary?
The ending is satisfying for me even if I did predict an early scene would return to make its point later. Narratively speaking though, I credit the screenplay for inventing something beyond a final fight that would probably include kitchen knives and crashes through windows followed by someone falling to his gruesome death from a great height, or drowning a villain in a bathtub before shooting him when he miraculously comes back to life.
See, that’s what the other movies are doing. Films like The Gift and Get Out are completely doing something else entirely.