By James Hancock Sep 25th, 2014
Like any hardcore film fanatic, I love nothing more than when a film surprises me. I just got out of seeing Adam Wingard’s latest film “The Guest” and I was in a state of absolute glee for two reasons. The first is that “The Guest” is a highly entertaining movie that completely confounded my expectations with every twist and turn of the story. The second reason was that this film was not remotely on my radar as a movie to be on the lookout for which only increased my surprise and pleasure as I watched it. I fancy myself a film connoisseur and I’m embarrassed that I was blissfully unaware of this movie until quite recently. I’m eager to check it out again in that I kind of ruined the first half of the movie even as I was enjoying it. I was having so much fun with this wild and unusual story that I kept dreading the inevitable point in the movie where it would become formulaic and predictable, leaving a bad taste in my mouth. I didn’t believe that the film could sustain its own momentum. Thankfully, I couldn’t have been more off base and it is my pleasure to report that “The Guest” is well worth hunting down particularly as we go into the weeks leading up to Halloween, a time when I try to watch as many horror movies and thrillers as I can.
The only reason I even knew about “The Guest” was because of my new podcast, Wrong Reel (episodes to be released online soon). With Wrong Reel, my partners in crime Parker Dixon and Mikhail Karadimov and I are planning on taking turns picking the films to be discussed and for this week’s recording Mikhail suggested that we tackle “The Guest”. I had no idea what the movie even was so I watched Adam Wingard’s film “You’re Next” for homework which I thought was a pretty solid horror movie. It turns out that I had also seen Wingard’s work before in the two horror anthologies “V/H/S” (2012) and “V/H/S/2” (2013) but I was unaware of Wingard by name at the time. In terms of the look of the film, the script, and the performances, “The Guest” is a giant leap forward for Wingard. The movie’s star, Dan Stevens, who I knew as Matthew Crawley from “Downton Abbey”, has officially shattered any chances of ever being typecast as an upper crust member of the English aristocracy. I don’t want to give too much away but in “The Guest”, Dan Stevens plays a war veteran named David who has come to pay his respects to the family of a friend that died in combat. The members of this family are emotionally vulnerable and invite David to stay until David has a plan for what to do with his life. David quickly gets to work helping the family confront the problems in their lives and part of the joy of the movie is watching David completely wreak havoc with any small town bullies or bureaucrats that get in his way. I think this film hasn’t been marketed particularly well in that the trailer fails to capture just how hysterical “The Guest” can be. Granted the humor is blackhearted but I was howling from start to finish. Dan’s costar Maika Monroe plays Anna who quickly realizes that David is not entirely who he seems to be and as she discovers the secrets of his background, the insanity and violence get completely dialed up to eleven for most of the last half of the film. To top it all off, the movie incorporates the holiday of Halloween brilliantly into the climax of the film making it the perfect movie for getting in the right frame of mind in the weeks leading up to my favorite holiday. I walked out of this movie with a giant smile on my face and I strongly urge anyone with an interest in unpredictable violent black comedies to head to this movie as fast as they can.
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