By: Addison Wylie
Director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett are two filmmakers who love the horror genre. Furthermore, they’re filmmakers who understand the genre. They deserve a ton of success and praise. I hope The Guest finally gets them there.
You might say, “Addison! What’re you talking about? These two have made a name for themselves already!” Sure, they have; I agree that the duo have established themselves in moviemaking, but Wingard and Barrett are only notably popular within the genre. You’ve only heard of them because your a big fan of scary movies. They’ve built that solid niche with contributions to the V/H/S series as well as with their brewing cult flick You’re Next.
Before The Guest turns itself into a really tense film in the same way a horror film would, the methodically planned project starts as a drama with hints of an action movie. These two love to draw influences from haunted classics, but I felt more of a Terminator vibe with its bulletproof leading male and the young hero.
During the film’s first moments, The Guest is only scary because of its ambiguity. David (played by a charming Dan Stevens) approaches the Peterson family and immediately ties himself to their fallen son. Both boys were soldiers, and David arrives to send the ex-soldier’s wishes. The Petersons – knowing very little about David – offer a homestead while he sets up his new life outside of the military. They also find him incredibly easy to talk and vent to. Suddenly, David is helping the son “take care ” of local bullies and turning the rebellious daughter into smitten putty.
But, who or what is David? Barrett makes us unsure of Stevens when David is fixated on nothing, but is making us giggle with the film’s morbid sense of humour and making us bounce with joy when David “takes care” of someone. He’s someone who takes his duty of serving and protecting to new levels.
The Guest doesn’t turn itself or clichés on their ear like You’re Next did. But, Wingard finds other clever ways to make his movie explode with originality.
The performances are commendable, especially Maika Monroe as daughter Anna who acts as the audience’s voice throughout the picture. The movie looks fantastic, especially during the film’s final act when – literal – stagey lighting is put to great use. And, Wingard’s favourable synth score adds a fun element of dread.
I suppose the reason why Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett have difficulties becoming known outside of their desired genre is because their films are hard to market. You’re Next has its hiccups, but it’s a perfectly fine late-night flick. However, it’s not quite a horror, and to say it’s a comedy would be teetering on giving away too much.
The same can be said about The Guest; although it’s a much more mature film compared to You’re Next, which felt like it was made by a bunch of devoted fanboys with wit. The Guest is not quite a horror, but it becomes too electric to call it anything straightforward. These aren’t bad things to movie goers who want to take a chance, but it’s a nightmare for studios or PR teams.
Let’s hope audiences can dip their toes in the water with The Guest. Everyone wins if they do. It’s a rewarding film with a killer payoff that will have movie goers happy with their choice, the producers grinning at box office numbers, and Wingard and Barrett smiling with their new recognition.