The Gift (2015)

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Neatly packaged with a pristine bow on top, this movie is a gift of a psychological story. It may be sent with tags from Blumhouse Productions but apart from ‘Whiplash’ this film is far removed from its horror brother and sisters, taking a more suspenseful route in building up unease.

Moving to California, Simon Callen (Jason Bateman) and his wife Robyn (Rebecca Hall) set up houses in a lush new pad and as they begin buying homeware goods, Simon runs into an old school acquaintance. Gordon or Gordo (Joel Edgerton) becomes a constant presence around the Callen home, dropping off gifts or turning up when Robyn is alone. As he grows in mystery so too does the reasoning of why Gordon is doing what he is and it will all boil down to Simon’s childhood past.

This is a clever little movie, with characters upended and ideas subverted along the way. It’s not so much a film with twists or shocks but one with teeny little surprises and motives that create the near 100% tension rate. The main theme is redemption and laying with that is the notion of bullying. It’s a perfect ground to construct the movie on and with it comes playful darkness in Gordon’s actions. Though by the end things of course change and a fractured finale comes to a deserving figure.

I had no idea until the credits rolled that Joel Edgerton wrote and directed also. As directorial debut he’s surely proud of this chilling thriller, because it doesn’t jump on that Blumhouse horror trend. Yes there are scares but only one or two that make you rise out of your seat a smidge, the rest is all based on dramatic tension and worrying character interaction. The smoothness to a majority of Edgerton’s directing helps lull you into the movie and he does a fine job in keeping up the unnerving pace.

The ending section drifts slightly into more frenetic territory as more standard horror tropes segway in from numbered presents, creepy videotapes and masks but it doesn’t take away from the smarter moments before. It’s there in a kind of playful manner to really hit home to a character what they’ve put themselves in for. The ending question itself is an open one, though one I surely believe has just one true answer as from all this you do still gauge what Gordo is like deep down, so it doesn’t work brilliantly as a mysterious interpretation but closes the chapter in Simon’s and Gordo’s life with a perfect burn.

Danny Bensi and Saunder Jurriaans double up for music duties and craft a wonderful score that compliments the smooth sweeping unease of the movie well. It builds when it needs to with harsher sounds pulling it back into the horror genre or no sounds at all when aiming to make the audience jump at a certain point. It’s a film that looks good, sounds good and does good in psychologically moulding a rich set of open expectations.

Jason Bateman gets top grades here for being an ick with a capital D in front. It’s no spoiler (unless you’ve missed the trailer) that something Bateman’s character has done is why Gordon is so ever present with presents. Even from the outset he seems smarmy but little things he does or says make you come to realise more about him so by the time the reveal is….well, revealed, you don’t find it a hard thing to swallow. Rebecca Hall is divine in this, her performance is top notch with her role being the biggest as she comes to terms with her own sad past, her mysteriously uncaring husband and a new socially awkward guest. She’s the one stuck in the middle and Hall plays this broken and emotional wife really well. Joel Edgerton as Gordo the weirdo is weird but in a cool way where you do feel for him. There’s a vulnerable glint in his eye that changes to become something more menacing at times which with his smirk, Edgerton gifts Gordo that on edge antagonist.

Though there’s only really one victim amongst all this gift wrapped drama and by the end every one comes away from the events in totally different circumstances which makes this a brilliantly executed movie with filmic studying of characters running alongside excellent tension. More of these types of movies please Blumhouse.

7.5/10

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