Traditionally, horror films and psychological thrillers follow a predictable path in their themes of dot-to-dot suspense. Rarely does a suspense piece deviate away from the formulaic blueprint that make these types of flicks the familiar frightfests they are in conception. However, the crafty Joel Edgerton, as the juggling movie mastermind sporting directing, acting and writing credits, provides the mind-bending goods in the refreshingly titillating ‘The Gift’, an edge-of-your-seat chiller that definitely is worth unwrapping with nervous anticipation. The ambitious moments in ‘The Gift’ are golden especially when the twists and turns are considered a solid fixture in the film’s creepy conclusion.
It is understandable in assuming that ‘The Gift’ could have been yet another custom-made psychological thriller promoting the same hire-for-dire predicaments. Nevertheless, the insidious presence of Edgerton, along with co-stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall, as the Chicagoan married couple settling in their aesthetic-looking LA-based home elevates ‘The Gift’ as a stalker flick with captivating smarts and attitude.
It is actually a homecoming situation for Simon (Bateman) as he returns to his California town courtesy of his job-related executive rise within his computer security firm. The mover-and-shaker couple Simon and Robyn (Hall) settle into their impressive, spacious window-friendly place with a modern innovative appearance. When the couple decides to head out and do some furniture shopping they bump into Gordon (Edgerton). Gordon identifies himself as Simon’s old high school classmate, something that catches the computer exec by surprise because he does not necessary recall the goatee-sporting Gordon right off the bat. The greeting is awkward but Simon politely acknowledges Gordon in an effort to appease him.
Unfortunately, jotting down the clingy Gordon’s phone number is opening up a proverbial can of worms. Soon, Simon and Robyn would be hindered by Gordon’s constant intrusive visits to their elegant home. Furthermore, Gordon adds to the creep factor by bestowing different degrees of generous gifts on the marital twosome. Gordon does not seem to take the hint that his unannounced visitations are smothering and rather bothersome to the lovebirds. The nervy gesture of Gordon hanging around is particularly worrisome because he seems to dominate Robyn’s attention and time as Simon is away at his lucrative job during the day.
The tension mounts for Simon and Robyn outside of the menacing interruptions caused by the mysterious Gordo. For starters, the pressure is on for the tandem to start a family as they hope to entertain the arrival of their first child. Secondly, Simon tries to best a rival at work to further his corporate ladder climbing into management. Thus, Gordon’s bizarre gift-giving tendencies and continual pit stops in the couple’s blossoming lives purely add to the stress and strain of keeping their marriage solid and conflict-free.
The Gift could have followed its road map to predictability and used the oddball Gordon as the doomsday dude that continues his twisted agenda without any rhyme or reason. Here is where Edgerton, as the aforementioned triple threat in directing, writing and acting, earns his creative stripes because he manages to flip the script on the viewers and causes them to comprehend the off-kilter motivations of this complex agitator. Is Gordon justified in his campaign to cause havoc for the corporate rising star Simon? Is Simon as squeaky clean as it appears? What is the backstory surrounding the nostalgic circumstances concerning Gordon’s and Simon’s past history as childhood classmates together? Can Robyn piece together the perplexing puzzle that involves the two men on different avenues to self-destruction?
It would be a disservice to reveal some of the shocking angles in ‘The Gift’ because the film certainly engineers must of its nerve-racking twists so cleverly to the point of describing too much of the dramatic layers may spoil the tension-driven surprise. The overall toxic message that is conveyed pretty much sums up Edgerton’s inventive and piercing thrill ride. Be careful how you mistreat or dismiss someone from the past on the way up because you very well could tangle with them as one’s fortunes could descend without a moment’s notice. Or to put it in simplistic street-wise terminology: karma is indeed a bitch!
The Gift (2015)
1 hr. 48 mins.
Starring: Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, Joel Edgerton, Allison Tolman, Busy Phillipps, Beau Knapp, Wendell Pierce and David Denman
Directed and Written by: Joel Edgerton
MPAA Rating: R
Genre: Psychological Thriller/Suspense and Drama
Critic’s Rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars)
(c) Frank Ochieng 2015