Thursday, December 3, 2015

THE GUEST (2014)

Writer/director Adam Wingard is certainly making a name for himself in the horror genre with films like You’re Next and A Horrible Way to Die and segments from the V/H/S series attesting to his ability (I’ve yet to see Pop Skull or Home Sick, but I’ll be checking those out shortly). Naturally, fans would expect Wingard’s latest film The Guest to live up to the awesomeness of his previous efforts. Does it?
     Pretty much.
     David Collins (Dan Stevens) goes to the home of Caleb Peterson, a man Collins served with in Iraq, to meet Caleb’s family and fulfill his promise of taking care of them. Laura (Sheila Kelly) invites David to stay with them despite the initial reluctance of Spencer (Leland Orser). What sounds like the premise of some sappy melodrama turns into a nice suspense/thriller as it becomes clearer that David isn’t quite who he seems. Who is this man? And what exactly does he want?
     That’s about all I can say without giving anything away. Of course we’ve seen this plot a hundred times but what makes this one shine above many others are the brilliant performances from the cast. There is not a dud to be found as all are enjoyable and none of them feel phoned in. Standing well above the others is
Stevens’ portrayal of David. From the moment we meet him we know there is something dark lurking beneath his kind and polite exterior. He comes off as too nice and too polite as he’s trying to compensate for the fact that none of it is genuine. As the film goes along we see his veneer of nicety begin to collapse, paving the way for many tense scenes as well as outright violence.
     The film moves along at a nice pace. The first bit is fun and tense as the story slowly builds. A highlight was seeing David kick the shit out of some assholes bullying Luke (Brendan Meyer) and we’re naturally going to be cheering him on. And once things reach a head and the truth is uncovered, we get some nice violence and action. And I have to say I am extremely happy that the filmmakers chose to use practical effects all the way. Nothing pisses me off more than CGI blood, CGI gunshots and CGI explosions. They used blanks, exploding blood packets and blew shit up, something that is becoming rare in films these days thanks to the money- and effort-saving of computerized effects. The film does drag a tad bit in the middle but that’s really a minor gripe compared to the rest of the film, which is awesome.
     A major gripe, however, is the ending which brought the movie down a notch or two and actually pissed me off a little bit. I won’t say what it is suffice to say that Anna’s (Makia Monroe) final line of dialogue sums it up perfectly: “What the fuck!?” indeed.
     Despite an ending that feels more obligatory than organic, you could do a lot worse than The Guest. While Winegard won’t be a director whose name is spoken with the same reverence as Carpenter, Romero, Craven, and so on, if he keeps this work up he’ll still be a major name in genre directing. Invite The Guest into your home tonight. It’ll make for pleasant company. 

Bombs away.

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