The Gift


I sometimes wonder how long filmmakers think they have to wait before using a movie title that’s previously been taken. With something like 2010’s Frozen (the ski lift-set horror by the director of Hatchet) and 2013’s Frozen (the Disney musical, natch) I can understand why they wouldn’t worry about confusion. But part of me wondered if it was too soon since Sam Raimi’s 2000 thriller, The Gift. Lots of people saw that, didn’t they? No? Come on! It had Keanu playing someone other than Keanu! Anyway…

The GiftThis Gift is written and directed by Joel Edgerton. His face also graces the poster, because he’s the film’s antagonist, Gordo. He’s the creepy guy who’s inserted himself into the lives of Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), a couple who’ve recently moved into a new house in suburban Los Angeles. Gordo went to school with Simon, but from the very first moment, his presence brings with it an unescapable tension.

That tension is maintained throughout the entire film in what is a very impressive directorial debut from Edgerton. The performances of Bateman and Hall are deftly manoeuvred, so that every single pause for breath, every subtle facial expression, conveys more than words. It’s great when we see Bateman in a non-comedic role (he impressed me equally in The Kingdom) and Hall is fantastic, as per usual.

This is a film released through Blumhouse Productions, the low budget studio known for Insidious and Paranormal Activity, which might put off some people. However, in terms of Blumhouse releases, the film is more on the Whiplash end of the scale than the Unfriended end. The cinematography, lighting and production design is slick, and the film shows admirable restraint, and indeed ambiguity, when required.

To be perfectly honest, I would have been happy with a straight by-the-numbers thriller, but The Gift presented a lot more nuance than I expected. It toys with our assumptions, and whilst it doesn’t exactly flip the genre on its head, it utilises and avoids cliché in equal portions.

If I were to list any disappointments, the first that would be that it once or twice relies on loud non-diegetic thumps in the soundtrack to punctuate its jump-scares. One particular moment would have been chilling enough without such gauche sound design. Also, frustratingly the film turns its attention from one character to another during the final act, and the plot doesn’t stand up to too much critical thinking afterwards.

The Gift is an extraordinarily confident and chilling thriller, one that maintains an unsettling tone for the entirety of the running time. It’s a classy, brilliantly directed film that will keep you enthralled for 108 minutes.

Rating: 3.5 stars
Review by Stuart Wilson, 28th August 2015
Hoopla Factor: 4 stars

Deathgasm Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials