A young couple move to a new city where a chance meeting with an old school friend instigates the uncovering of a dark secret.
New kids at high school were usually in two categories: the ones who had a great time and the others who spent the first few weeks being asked if they’d seen the school’s blue goldfish before having their heads shoved down the toilet and flushed or asked if they’d like to use the school lift and shown into a stationary cupboard where they were locked in for the rest of the day and so on and so forth. Who knows what happens to them once you leave school?
The Gift follows a well to do couple played by Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall relocating to a new city where they bump into one of Jason’s old school friends who is determined to maintain their new-found friendship by leaving them gifts on their doorstep but when his unannounced and all too frequent visits to their new home become grating Bateman decides to draw the line in this ‘friendship’ which he was never keen to rekindle anyway. All is well until Hall, as the newly pregnant wife, starts to uncover school day secrets.
This is yet another film from the hugely prolific Blumhouse Productions, responsible for the horror franchises Insidious, The Purge and Paranormal Activity, but here we find a slightly different tack because on the surface this appears to be going down an obvious and well travelled narrative but takes off in a more interesting tangent with no one quite being who they seem. It’s all credit to Joel Edgerton, who we last saw with a bald head and heavy duty eye liner in Ridley Scott’s ‘Exodus’ who makes his feature length directorial debut after a couple of decent short films. He is also sole writer for the film too and serves up the usual horror tropes, (the affable family pet which may come to a nasty end, the villain with a motive for revenge, etc) but resists the temptation to serve up the expected moments and, clearly aware of these traps, guides the audience in a different direction. It doesn’t end there either as, not content with directing and writing, he also goes on to star as Gordo the school friend and successfully treads a fine line between eliciting our sympathy whilst the next moment becoming the villain of the piece and the shifting dynamic between him and Bateman keeps us guessing.
For Blumhouse Productions this is something of a departure with The Gift being more psychological than visceral horror though it doesn’t shy from the occasional yet highly-effective shock without ever having to rely on them.
At one point Edgerton as Gordo says, ‘Good people deserve good things’, which, if this is anything to go by, means that we can look forward to a lot more from Edgerton in the future with this entertaining feature which delivers with aplomb.
Words: Simon Hooper @anygoodfilms?