‘The Gift’ pleasantly surprises and scares

We unfortunately live in the age of cheap horror movies.

These days, the genre relies solely on jump scares, repetitive plots and special effects. The art of making a slasher sometimes seems to be lost to the ages. Horror movies just do not have the staying power that its predecessors did. It is very rare that you leave the theatre genuinely scared anymore.

That is what makes “The Gift” such an excellent watch. This is a horror movie, directed, written by and starring Joel Edgerton, defies the current standards of the genre and actually leaves the audience horrified.

Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall star as Simon and Rebecca Callum, a struggling married couple. They have just moved to Los Angeles so that Simon can start a new job and eventually a family.

While the couple is out shopping one day, they run into Gordon “Gordo” Mosley (Joel Edgerton) a former high school classmate of Simon’s. Gordo who has a strange haircut and is dead in the eyes, is immediately unsettling. Although he is nothing but nice on screen, there is something about Edgerton’s performance that makes it apparent that Gordo has the capacity to become unhinged.

After their chance meeting, Gordo begins bombarding the couple with affection.

He starts by leaving packages at their doorstep. But then begins showing up at their house unannounced and inviting himself over to dinner.

Gordo creates a rift between the couple, or perhaps makes the preexisting problems between the pair more obvious.

As the movie progresses, it becomes apparent that Gordo and Simon have unfinished business from their high school days. Gordo begins his reign of psychological terror over the couple by stealing their dog and poisoning their fish. Rebecca, who is home alone all day, is on the receiving end of most of Gordo’s punishments. She begins having nightmares and abusing prescription drugs.

Rebecca and Simon’s marriage is a good example of the subtle horror in The Gift. The scariest thing about this movie is not the dead dog or the dreams of home invasion, it is the idea that people can surprise you in the worst imaginable ways.

Who wants to believe that their spouse could ruin people’s lives without hesitation?

Edgerton allows the viewer to piece together the full story through the perspective of Rebecca. The movie features many creeping shots of her worst nightmares, the things she imagines during her long days at home alone, even worse, is when she is not imagining anything at all.

Although the plot is driven by the conflict between Gordo and Simon, Rebecca is undeniably the star of the film. This is why it was so disappointing that her perspective was cut out of the ending entirely.

The end did not lack in shock value, however. The problem is that it relies far too heavily on Simon’s reaction to his bad karma, and leaves Rebecca’s character without a resolution. This dismissal of her character is not necessarily surprising. The horror genre has always been famous for weak female characters. However, Rebecca was not a weak character, not until the end.

Ending aside, “The Gift” really is one of the best modern horror movies out there.

It leaves you with a lasting paranoia, which is so rare these days. If you want to question your whole life, go see it.