A familiar horror/suspense trope gets entertainingly respun in "The Perfect Host."

A familiar horror/suspense trope — criminals choose the wrong hideout, discover twisted residents more dangerous than cops — gets entertainingly respun in “The Perfect Host.” Expanding his 2002 short, Aussie writer-director Nick Tomnay’s U.S. first feature finds David Hyde Pierce and Clayne Crawford playing violent cat-and-mouse captivity games. Pic is unmemorable but diverting, and its slickness, modest scale and TV names are perfect for cable sale.

John (Crawford) has barely left a $300,000 bank robbery when the radio broadcasts that he and his car have already been identified. Needing shelter fast, he bluffs his way into the sleek Hollywood Hills abode of older bachelor Warwick (Pierce), who’s preparing for a dinner party. At first John’s fibs maintain cordiality, but when the truth comes out, he easily overpowers the terrified host. However, Warwick isn’t quite as helpless as he seems. Tables are soon turned, John drugged and bound by an apparent madman. Just when the pic seems to be settling into torture porn, it begins pulling a series of clever twists — although they lose some punch when you realize the script depends on one whopping coincidence. Perfs are expert, packaging pro if undistinguished.

The Perfect Host

Production

A Stacey Testro Intl. and Mark Victor Prods. production. Produced by Testro, Victor. Executive producer, Martin Zoland. Directed, written by Nick Tomnay.

Crew

Camera (color, HD), John Brawley; editor, Tomnay; music, John Swihart; Ricardo Jattan. Reviewed at Sundance Film Festival (Park City at Midnight), Jan. 27, 2010. Runtime: 93 MIN.

With

David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford, Nathaniel Parker, Megahn Perry, Helen Reddy, Indira G. Wilson, Tyrees Allen, Annie Campbell, Cooper Barnes.
With: David Hyde Pierce, Clayne Crawford, Nathaniel Parker, Megahn Perry, Helen Reddy, Indira G. Wilson, Tyrees Allen, Annie Campbell, Cooper Barnes.

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