Monday, September 28, 2015

Make Him Feel At Home

I may have been a little hard on the hip boy team that is Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. Though I mostly enjoyed their big debut, A Horrible Way to Die, I've fallen quite hard off their train following their lazy, nauseating, misogynist, and generally misanthropic contributions to the new "bad boy" boom of anthology horror that puked on my eyes with V/H/S and its sequel. I had put off seeing their much-loved You're Next for quite a while, but finally gave in and found it, well, pretty darn delightful.

Hence did I un-side my eye to give The Guest a shot, especially since it was conveniently streaming on Netflix Instant. Unpack your things and let's get to know one another, shall we?

Quick Plot: The Petersons are a family in mourning, having recently lost their eldest son Caleb overseas during a military mission. Their days get a little brighter with the arrival of the charming and handsome David, Caleb's army buddy who comes bearing kind words to alcoholic dad Spencer, sad mom Laura, moody 20 year old Anna, and the bullied teenage Luke.

It doesn't take long for the whole Peterson clan to start treating David like family. It certainly helps when David helps Luke brutally teach some teasing classmates a few lessons in etiquette and charms Anna's best friend by protecting her from an ex-boyfriend. Soon Spencer's receiving a promotion courtesy of the mysterious death of his supervisor and Laura seems ready to adopt David as her own.

Naturally, something is amiss. Played almost like a kinetic twist on The Monkey's Paw, The Guest continues to show some of director Adam Wingard's key strengths. Like You're Next, this film starts with such an interesting and completely believable family dynamic so that by the time chaos is reigning, we're fully invested with seeing how it will play out. It also helps that Wingard has assembled a strong genre-friendly cast (including It Follows Maika Monroe and Se7en's Leland Orser). In the center of it all is Dan Stevens, who finds the perfect balance of charm and menace to make the titular houseguest into someone worth following and fearing. 

This isn't a masterpiece or game-changing piece of genre cinema, but it's FUN. Wingard and screenwriter Barrett bring us in and rather quickly, put everything in fifth gear. Savvy viewers may find some American military politics to mine, but at its heart, this is a movie made to entertain, amuse, and scare. On all of those levels, it works. 

High Points
You have to admire the quick pace of this film. Wingard starts the mayhem under a sunny outdoors excursion, and it just keeps moving from there. There's ALMOST no wasted time whatsoever

Low Points
A lot has been written about the cuts and additions made to The Guest after some test screenings. Based on this first viewing of the theatrical cut, a lot make sense (eliminating scenes explaining David's backstory was a good move, as we can figure enough of it out without dragging the film down in exposition) but one that feels unfortunate, if the internet is to be believed, is that originally, Lance Reddick's character was a sudden introduction at the house siege as opposed to his added scenes in the military base. The idea of him just showing up with a SWAT team behind him just seems like it would have been a much more surprising and effective twist.

Lessons Learned
A spicy beverage makes for a handy weapon

Nothing insults a teenage bully more effectively than a free cosmopolitan in a dive bar

When in doubt, cry hate crime

Like You're Next, The Guest is just a fun, fast-paced horror/thriller. It doesn't quite have the same humorous charm, but it's highly entertaining and is well worth your time on Instant Watch.


  1. Sounds a bit like Brimstone & Treacle... though I'm probably way off with that comparison.
    You're Next didn't sit well with me all but I'll give 'em a second chance.

    1. Curious, what didn't you like about You're NExt? After V/H/S, I kind of wrote Wingard off, but as much as I almost didn't WANT to like You're Next, I found it rather irresistible.

  2. Nope, didn't much care for that, not that it was a bad movie. Was it meant to be 'retro'? It seems like it would have been right at home in the '80s.

    1. I can see that. I'm guessing the filmmakers are big '80s genre fans, so I wouldn't be surprised if that's the kick they were going for.