David Hyde Pierce may be best known for his role as Niles Crane on the hit comedy series, “Frasier,” but it only makes his performance in this darkly comical indie gem from writer/director Nick Tomnay that much more effective. The film stars Clayne Crawford as John Taylor, a career criminal who robs a bank and then cons his way into the home of Warwick Wilson (Pierce) under the pretense that they share a fellow acquaintance. Ever the consummate host, Warwick invites John to stay as a guest of his dinner party, completely unaware that he’s on the run from the police. But when his secret is revealed and he tries to bully Warwick into being his hostage, the tables are turned on John when he discovers that Warwick isn’t exactly who he appears to be.

A psychological thriller where nothing is as it seems, “The Perfect Host” may have more twists and turns than you would expect given the film’s seemingly straightforward plot, but most of them work surprisingly well without feeling cheap or contrived. Though the ending isn’t nearly as clever as it thinks due to the events that precede it, the performances are strong enough to keep you engaged throughout its taut 93-minute runtime. Crawford holds his own as the bank robber who becomes more of a victim with each passing scene, but it’s Pierce who steals the show as the title character – a human onion that slowly peels back the layers of his not-so-normal psyche much to John’s terror. Those only familiar with Pierce’s work on “Frasier” will definitely be in for a pleasant surprise, because the role allows the actor to step out of his comfort zone and have some fun, and it’s exactly this casting against type that makes the movie so entertaining.

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