Starring: Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey), Maika Monroe (Labour Day), Sheila Kelley (Matchstick Men), Brendan Meyer (Tooth Fairy), Leland Orser (Taken), Lance Reddick (Fringe)
Director: Adam Wingard (You’re Next)
Writer: Simon Barrett (You’re Next)
Runtime: 1 hour 39 minutes
Release Date: 5 September (UK), 17 September (US)
Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett showed a lot of promise last year when their long-gestating project You’re Next was finally released to the public and became a big favourite among horror fans for its amusing play on genre conventions. Not bad for a film that was essentially a bunch of film geeks mucking around. Now the duo is back with The Guest, a far more ambitious picture but with just as much love for the classics, and it’s one you won’t want to miss.
It’s hard to pin The Guest down to one genre as it dallies around with several of them, but it can be summed up as “very 80’s”. It may be set in modern times, but in terms of tone and style this film screams the 1980’s. Much like with his previous effort, Wingard owes a lot to John Carpenter but it never becomes so overt that it just comes off as an imitation. That’s not to say that is their sole influence, as there are certainly shades of The Terminator and other cult favourites, enough of them that I won’t bother listing them all. The plot moves a solid clip, gradually increasing tension and scale until building up to an insane third act where everything is on the table. It moves seamlessly from thriller to mystery to action to horror, with elements of dark comedy and possibly even sci-fi thrown in, all creating a wonderful stew of a movie. Some might find the ending a little inconclusive, but I think it just makes it that much more interesting, leaving it open for all sorts of theories and interpretations. I know I’m being very vague, but I think this is one you need to go in as cold as possible.
You’re Next provided us with Erin, one of the best horror movie protagonists in recent memory, and Wingard and Barrett have concocted another winning character in Dan Stevens’ David. His characterisation is already intriguing enough, but Stevens’ performance elevates what’s already a cool character and makes him someone impossible to dislike even in his darker moments. He brings such confidence and swagger to the part, along with fierce stoicism and a fun attitude, creating a character that is badass but also enigmatic and charming. His performance helps bolster the rest of the cast, who do a good job but don’t stand out a huge amount but I think that’s the point. This is a movie about taking a normal set of characters and circumstances, putting them in a room with something extraordinary and letting the fun happen. That said, I did have a particular problem with the bullies portrayed in the film. They are all a bunch of stereotypical douchebags like most movie bullies and, though their presence gives way to some of Stevens’ best scenes in the movie, I’d hoped a film that flips so many other conventions on their head would figure out a way to make this clichéd element seem a bit fresher.
As much as the storytelling conveys a classic vibe, it’s the presentation that gives The Guest that true old-school feel. The camerawork has more of a modern fluidity to it, but the lighting (especially during the climax) is very 80’s. The few action sequences in the movie are well handled if a little shaky at points, whilst the score wraps the entire picture together with a synth soundtrack that encapsulates the mood perfectly.
The Guest is an absolute blast for fans of old school genre pictures, mixing all of the classic elements with some modern twists to create something unique and entertaining as hell. Dan Stevens’ performance alone sells the movie, but everything else around him supports his work tremendously. Go in as blind as you can, bring along some friends and maybe some beers, and just yourself have a good time.
FINAL VERDICT: 9/10