'The Gift': Why the suspenseful movie is impressing critics

Spooky movies aren't always well-received by critics, but reviewers are calling the new movie starring Jason Bateman, Rebecca Hall, and Joel Edgerton 'masterful' and 'Hitchcockian.' Here's how the movie echoes the current success of horror on TV.

Matt Kennedy/STX Productions, LLC/AP
'The Gift' stars Rebecca Hall (l.) and Jason Bateman (r.).

The horror film “The Gift,” which stars Jason Bateman and Rebecca Hall and is directed by another of its stars, Joel Edgerton, is impressing critics.

“Gift” tells the story of married couple Simon (Bateman) and Robyn (Hall), who encounter an unsettling high school acquaintance of Simon’s named Gordo (Edgerton). The movie is Edgerton’s feature-length debut and is also written by the actor, who has previously appeared in such films as “The Great Gatsby” and “Exodus: Gods and Kings." 

Many reviewers have been impressed with the film, with critics calling it “a Hitchcockian exercise in deception,” “masterful,” and “tremendously sly… may be the most unnerving in any mainstream American thriller since ‘Seven.’" 

Some moviegoers may be surprised to see the superlative reviews for “The Gift.” Often many horror movies are viewed as akin to coming off an assembly line creatively and aren’t usually well-reviewed. For example, many of the 2014 highest-grossing horror movies such as “Annabelle,” “The Purge: Anarchy,” “Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones,” and “Ouija” nor the 2015 movie “Unfriended” did well with critics.

However, horror TV shows are currently scoring critically and with viewers on TV. The FX show “American Horror Story,” which switches to a different spooky setting every season, has become a hit for the network, and the NBC show “Hannibal” was well-received by critics before it was recently canceled. The FX show “The Strain” and Showtime’s “Penny Dreadful” have also been mostly well-reviewed.

Meanwhile, some critically well-received thrillers have come to movie theaters recently, like last year’s “Gone Girl,” which was based on Gillian Flynn’s massive bestseller and earned “Girl” actress Rosamund Pike an Oscar nomination for Best Actress. The 2014 movie “Nightcrawler” and 2013’s “The Conjuring” mostly scored with critics as well. If films like these keep appearing on the scene, the genre could experience a creative reawakening akin to what’s happening on the small screen.

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