Following a credits song in which the singer sarcastically croons “I really want to be in L.A.,” wounded bank robber John (Clayne Crawford) stumbles into a convenience store, which is then immediately held up. And this is before he seeks solace at the house of a man who turns out to be a serial killer. Los Angeles is a city oft-mocked by filmmakers, and while The Perfect Host doesn’t feature many characters—ones that are flesh-and-blood, at least—it’s worth noting that each one is some varying degree of venal, if not batshit insane.
John has made off with a haul but also a deep gash on his foot, both situations having put him on the doorstep of condo-owner Warwick Wilson (David Hyde Pierce). Warwick, a neat-freak who initially seems right in line with most of Pierce’s repertoire, is prepping for a dinner party and seems blissfully oblivious to John’s lies about being a friend of a friend. But the tables turn far earlier than expected, and soon John has been drugged up and tied to a chair, discovering that his wouldbe-victim is a psychopath whose dinner guests are actually a fleet of imaginary friends.
The feature debut of writer-director Nick Tomnay was expanded from a 2001 short, even if it usually feels as though it’s been transcribed from a play. Either way, and even acknowledging the way Warwick’s “friends” materialize and disappear from shot to shot, The Perfect Host manages to feel both stage-bound and under-realized; even having not seen the original, one can spot every padded-out addition as well as the moment when Tomnay ran out of ideas.
Regardless, here’s to perfect casting. Allowed a chance to burst out of his Niles Crane straightjacket - not to mention do some actual screen acting—Pierce dives in like a hunger striker who’s been awarded a lavish feast. Arching his eyebrows, overpronouncing his consonants, even breaking out into disco dance numbers, his is a giddy turn that renders everything around him irrelevant. Which works, as there’s nothing around him anyway.