15 September 2014

Review: The Guest

(Dir: Adam Wingard, 2014)

It’s curious how a film that doesn’t fully work can you leave you with a certain amount of hope for that director’s next film. That was definitely the case with Adam Wingard’s You’re Next, a well shot and mostly well executed horror film that too easily succumbs to genre tropes, frustrating plotting and tendency to throw in comedy at the very great expense of the horror. (That latter point is something that always frustrates as ‘horror’ and ‘comedy’ are two words that don’t go together.) But depsite those issues there was definite hope that something very good could come from Wingard. Say hello to The Guest, which happily proves that point to be so.

As with You’re Next, there’s a very satisfactory build up that wastes no time. We’re introduced to David (Dan Stevens) and although the Peterson family are welcoming when he says the right things and can prove what he’s saying, the audience always feels like this is a veneer, yet we’re not sure exactly what we’re looking for beneath it and how dark it might be. This is a strength that allows the film to take the viewer in whichever direction it chooses and where it eventually goes may frustrate some but it’ll inevitably delight others. Stevens imbues David with this beguiling appeal where you want him to be your friend, family member, partner, anything. The electrifying bar scene is the perfect example of this, offering an impudent confidence alongside the dutiful protectorate nature. Yet when he's on his own you never quite know what you're going to see. The character is engaging from his first appearance on screen until the last.

Where the story ends up is satisfying by playing back to the horror roots, whilst the explanation is less edifying, but that can be forgiven because the film still manages to deliver. It’s all shot with a warmth that makes it welcoming, but the score/soundtrack really adds a huge amount to the overall effect, channeling the classic synth work of the 80's it’s cleverly edited around the film and to see Steve Moore as the man responsible for that is hugely satisfying (check out the driving synthscapes of his band Zombi or his more ethereal synth based solo work). This all completes the package of a continually interesting and very entertaining film that wouldn’t be half of this if it wasn’t for the magnetism of the lead. The Guest is a very welcome visitor.

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