Review by David Baldwin for Mr. Will Wong
Mistakes were made at TIFF 2011 – I had the chance to see Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s wildly-entertaining You’re Next, but decided to go to something else instead. I cannot remember a thing about the movie I did see, but waited ever so patiently for Wingard and Barrett’s demented Forror-Comedy. The Film was eventually released last summer, nearly two years after its premiere at TIFF, and I loved each and every frame.
The same mistake was not going to be made when they brought their new film, The Guest, to Midnight Madness a few weeks back.
The Petersons are mourning the death of their Son during wartime. A knock at the door reveals David (Dan Stevens), who has come to pay his respects to the Family of his dead Friend. Laura (Sheila Kelley) welcomes him into their home with few questions. Spencer (Leland Orser) is a bit more apprehensive, but like his Son Luke (Brendan Meyer), he comes around quick. Yet Daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) remains skeptical, especially as David starts exhibiting odd behavior and people start turning up dead.
The Guest spends a lot of time building up tension through the first half – maybe a bit too much. It inches forward, offering small morsels of information about David ever so slowly. Its initial glacial pace is frustrating however, because none of the actors really come out of their characters’ one-dimensional shells. There is no depth to any of them other than David, and his Character is deliberately enigmatic by design. This was the same problem with You’re Next, but that Film took almost no time to start dispatching the majority of its cast one-by-one in giddy, gory fashion. But Wingard and Barrett want you to care about The Guest’s Characters, except they offer little to no reason to bother.
While that first half build-up may sound daunting, what comes next is more than worth waiting for. Explosions, shoot-outs, chases and balls-to-the-wall action are all unleashed in quick succession, turning The Guest into an entirely different Film altogether. Paired with the piercing, synthesizer-enthused Score, the Film becomes a glorious homage to 80’s style Action-Thrillers. Monroe and Meyer do a good job helping amp= up the terror and thrills, and Fan-Favourite Lance Reddick (Fringe, The Wire) even shows up to participate in the gleeful mayhem.
But as the bodies pile up and everything becomes downright chaotic, Stevens stands large as the Film’s MVP. He is cool, calm, mysterious and charming as hell when he is first introduced, and he just continues to be right through until the very end of the film. He commands the screen every time he shows up, and when he downplays what is happening around him, the humour is positively infectious. Stevens is clearly having a blast reveling in every twist and turn. He is the only Actor in the Movie who seems to be trying to develop his Character, and it shows in just how much stronger his performance is comparatively.
Genre Fans will find a lot to love about The Guest. It is a delirious amount of fun, and a really enjoyable homage to a breed of film that no longer exists. Casual watchers may be deterred by the lengthy build-up, but they will be more than rewarded when the film unleashes hell. If you did not get to know Dan Stevens from his days on Downton Abbey, be prepared to get to know him now!
D Films release THE GUEST on Friday, October 17, 2014.
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