The Gift (2015)
I’m glad I didn’t read much about The Gift before watching. It isn’t a horror film in the classic sense; there are very little scares. However, the film definitely has its horrifying moments, and I would certainly characterize it as a psychological thriller.
Simon (Jason Bateman) and Robyn (Rebecca Hall), who are living a seemingly great life, move into a large new home in California. While shopping at a furniture store for their new abode, Simon is approached by a man named Gordon Moseley (Joel Edgerton, who also wrote and directed), whom he doesn’t recognize at first. Gordon went to high school with Simon and is very interested in talking to him, but once Simon figures out who Gordo is, he quickly scoots out of the store…but not before the man at the retail counter confirms Simon and Robyn’s address in front of Gordon.
The next day, a bottle of wine appears on the front step- the first of many gifts and pop-bys by Gordon. It’s hard to decipher what Gordon wants out of his visits, as he tends to do helpful things around the house and is always very generous with his many gifts. He tends to overstay his welcome and is a bit socially awkward, but Robyn finds him harmless and feels sorry for him. Simon doesn’t feel the same, though, and quickly begins looking for a way out of the one-sided friendship.
A very strange dinner party at Gordo’s house starts to lend more creepy vibes that something just isn’t quite right about this character, leading Simon to ask Gordo to leave he and his wife alone.
Robyn feels badly for Gordo because she had been an outcast herself in high school. She’s also dealing with a miscarriage from the year prior and a substance abuse problem, and her guilt about writing Gordo off as well as a few strange things that begin to happen around the house start to bring old feelings back for her. When a letter in the mail from Gordo says he is “willing to let bygones be bygones”, Robyn begins to investigate what may have happened to him in the past in order to get some resolution, and is horrified by what she finds.
There are small clues throughout the film that Gordo has a bone to pick with Simon, but the twists and turns keep you on your toes every time you think you know what’s going on. The movie certainly does keep you guessing about who is to be believed, and the ending scene is quite repugnant, but not much about it could be construed as classically “scary.”
Really, The Gift is about the power of perception. It’s unsettling how easily the human mind can be manipulated, and once manipulated, how difficult it is to ever know what is really true. The film ultimately begs the question: does time really heal all wounds?
Jessica's Final Review
Jason Bateman plays a really great asshole, but Rebecca Hall just wasn’t as great in this film as she was in 'The Town', which bothered me a bit. Though 'The Gift' has unexpected moments, it lacks the suspense a true horror film should have. Much of the movie, you’re not really sure if anyone is really doing anything wrong...which would be okay if it didn’t take so long to get going. There are a lot of factors (for example, Robyn’s mental state) that really don’t bring anything to the story and seem like a bit of a time waster. 'The Gift' is worth a watch for its ingenuity and it's pretty great for Edgerton’s directorial debut, but don’t expect it to become your new favorite horror.