The Perfect Host: A Southern Gothic Tale

While sorting her dead grandmother’s affairs, a young woman boards in an eerie, southern mansion and soon discovers the matriarch may desire more than just her company.

Julie (Suilma Rodriguez) has a lot on her plate. Returning home to the dreary misery of a southern winter, she must handle her recently deceased grandmother’s estate. In tow are Julie’s cherubic daughter, Ellie (Andersyn Van Kuren), and a sordid past with more than a few people in town. So sordid in fact, that Julie and Ellie have nowhere to stay during their time of grief and familial duties. That is until they meet Ms. Francis Allen (Janis Duley) who invites them to stay over in one of the many rooms at her mansion.

Genteel horror ensues in the passively paced new film, The Perfect Host: A Southern Gothic Tale from writer Alaina McClellan Sims and writer-director Derrick Sims. Here deep, dark secrets lurk behind every locked door and hospitality is laced with bitter ulterior motives. While the artifice of calm is portrayed by the characters, it is reflected too in the sometimes demanding slow beat of the story that will easily lose the more impatient. The more diligent will be rewarded with a simple yet effective gothic tale.

“…deep, dark secrets lurk behind every locked door and hospitality is laced with bitter ulterior motives.”

Julie and her daughter accept a room at Ms. Allen’s estate and soon informed of the tales of ghosts and hauntings and all manner of Southern scuttlebutt. One of the more vocal is Julie’s old flame Jonathan (Chase Ryan Jeffery). He’s a nice enough guy who has a thing for Julie and who repeatedly makes attempts to offer her some stability and a new life in the old town.

It slowly becomes evident that Ms. Francis is after more than the chance to humble-brag that she offers strangers a place to stay. The secrets slowly begin unfurling, and soon enough, Julie is protecting both she and her daughter from more than just skeletons in the closet. Secrets are revealed, histories uncovered, and dark secrets from the past percolate to the surface. The real question here is whether or not the pace services or hinders the plot.

“…the pace of a funeral procession that somehow works in favor of the story…”

The Perfect Host: A Southern Gothic Tale is exactly as it states, Southern and gothic. The plot rolls out with a measured drawl that may appeal to some, while others might heave sighs of impatience. Rodriguez does a fine job as the girl with a past returning home to handle business. The real standout, however, is Janis Dulet as Ms. Allen. Her chirpy voice tinged with a subversive undercurrent are the best thing in the film.

It should also be noted that the tech side of the film is remarkably solid with particular props going to Bob Nguyen’s composition and framing of shots. There is some beautiful work here.

There are no cheap jump scares, no abrupt noises. For that, I must give the film’s creative team some respect. They stick to their guns and deliver a story with the pace of a funeral procession that somehow works in favor of the story, not to mention the setting. This is not exactly what I would call everyone’s glass of sweet tea, but there is something there worth seeing.

The Perfect Host: A Southern Gothic Tale (2018) Directed by Derrick Sims. Written by Alaina McClellan Sims, Derrick Sims. Starring Suilma Rodriguez, Chase Ryan Jeffery, Janis Duley.

6 out of 10 stars

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