The opening film at Frightfest 2014 was the latest fare from Adam Wingard (You’re Next), a director often accused of being over hyped due to his stylish, self – referential style that gleefully subverts horror tropes. His latest film The Guest follows this trend in a mash – up between Halloween (1978) and the Terminator (1984), giving the 1980s slasher genre a smart and stylish turn with ex downtown abbey star Dan Stevens as the titular antagonist. The plot follows ex – soldier David (Dan Stevens) turning up on the doorstep of a suburban family claiming to have served with their son who died in action. Inviting him in at first the family are enamored by David, a perfect guest, shoulder to cry on and ouster of high school bullies; but when people start to become reported missing, daughter Anna’s attempt to find the identity of David reveals frightening revelations unleashing a wave of death and destruction upon the small town.
Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of The Guest is its sheer unpredictability. While the core of the movie remains within genre type, its tone is firmly tongue in cheek with certain sequences producing furores of laughter rather than fear. This mostly arises from David’s uncanny interactions with other characters, with glimmers of false etiquette or line delivery denoting hints towards the final movie twist, where the movie shifts from quiet mid – western bar brawls to a glorious combination of horror and action pastiche. This sudden tone change sees Wingard come out of his shell, especially in a final act that hilariously take place in a Halloween high school disco, complete with Halloween 3: Season of the Witch (1983) references built into the set design and a horror maze filled with pyrotechnics, themed rooms and clichés aplenty. Aesthetics aside, The Guest is also well cast from Dan Stevens effortlessly flicking from likable average Joe to deadpan threat at the drop of a hat and Maika Monroe putting in an impressive turn as the suspicious family daughter Anna, making all the expository phone calls and interactions that really kick the film into gear.
The Guest was by no means a straight horror but an intelligent, self – aware filmic experience, transforming classic tropes into a slick entertaining thriller. Contrary to dominant opinions, you can actually have fun with horror without descending into stale self-parody and the work of Adam Wingard is a shining example of this. With so many plot ends left loose at the end of The Guest, I’m counting the days until the inevitable sequel.
The Guest pays cinemas a visit 5th September 2014.
Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser
Runtime: 99 mins