The Gift is a film that would do better without a trailer. A glance at said trailer would believe you to think you were about to witness a very simple home invasion horror. A man and his wife return to his hometown and are haunted by an old school friend. However, the film itself is much more intelligent than that.
The problem is that by telling you why it’s more intelligent than that, I would spoil the movie. It’s one where you are just going to have to take my word for it. The Gift twists from a straight up horror to a psychological thriller, which will have you perched on the edge of your seat.
Central to that twist is the house where most of the film takes place. At the start of the film Simon and Robyn Callen (Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall) are seen picking out what appears to be the perfect home. Floor to ceiling windows and even an empty fish pond beside the front door, create a perfect little paradise at the top of a hill. It’s not long though before these windows stop being idyllic and start being terrifying. What is looking in at night, when you can’t see out?
The stand out performance by a human is Joel Edgerton himself, not only is his direction subtle and unnerving, but his performance is too. His character Gordo, is on the surface an overly friendly and socially inept loser. The return of an old school friend seems to make him desperate to please and you are never entirely sure whether he is dangerous or just weird.
A similar thing can be said of his direction. He does a lot here by doing nothing. Moments where you are waiting for the bang or the unusual to happen, but instead there is often nothing there. Or maybe just a flicker on the edge of your sight. It means the film is very rarely scary, but is constantly tense. You’re never quite sure what is going on and that leaves you worried.
Right beside you in the confused stakes is Robyn, who Hall does a great job of portraying. Thrown into this old school friendship she knows as little as we do and as time goes on Gordo’s weirdness begins to take its toll on her. She’s never sure whether it’s paranoia or based on fact and that gives her a slightly different edge to a lot of horror protagonists. The big bad in this case is a person and they are either a terrifying prospect or it’s all in her head.
The Gift is a horror film with a difference and it is one that will linger at the back of your head. There’s no denying that it is unlikely to actually scare you, at least not significantly, but it is instilled with a sense of dread. The Gift is a simple film that manages to make itself a lot more complicated and because of that is well worth your time.