I’ve been a fan of Adam Wingard since a friend of mine told me I needed to watch Home Sick. Good directors have a unique style that’s all their own, and is immediately recognizable to their fans; Adam Wingard’s is one of my favorite. No matter the size in scope of the story he’s telling, his films have a smaller, more personal feel to them. They tend to center around one or two characters, and never stray too far from them. It takes talent to make that kind of movie work, and Wingard nails it more times than not. You’re Next was one of my favorite movies of last year ( I didn’t get to see it until it got wide release), so my expectations for The Guest were pretty high going in. For the most part it delivered, but fell just short of being one of my top films of 2014.
Synopsis from IMDB:
A soldier introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence.
While technically a really good movie, it’s the plot where The Guest sort of missed the mark for me. Maybe it’s because I’m such a jaded, cynical, un-trusting bastard, but if a stranger showed up on my doorstep, on foot, claiming to have known my now dead son from their time in the military, of course I’d invite him in, maybe offer him a drink, and visit with him for a while. What I wouldn’t do is quickly introduce him to my teenage daughter, and invite him to move in for a while. What in the Hell is wrong with these people? Then, when strange shit started happening, including deaths, I’d sure as fuck be suspicious of my house guest, you know, because this shit wasn’t happening BEFORE he got there. I know as movie fans we are often expected to suspend belief a bit, and I’m perfectly fine with that in most instances, but when I see people being so incredibly stupid that it makes my head hurt, it really distracts me.
Still, even with all that, for the most part I felt like the movie was headed toward what I thought was going to be a fairly paint-by-numbers conclusion, and then it went completely, COMPLETELY off the rails. It was more than hinted at that maybe things weren’t exactly as they seemed with our visiting soldier, but when the twist was revealed and the entire tone of the movie shifted, I actually audibly groaned. For however you end up feeling about the first 40 minutes, the last 20 are either going to make you hate The Guest even more, or at the very least make you wish you’d just turned it off half way through.
Luckily for the most part the whole cast turns in solid performances while acting out their respective ridiculously stupid actions. Dan Stevens is equal parts charming and funny, as well as effectively creepy and psychotic as the titular Guest, David. One minute you’re loving the guy, the next minute you’re ready to run the hell away from him screaming. Maika Monroe plays the troubled making teenage girl role well, and despite my continued insistence, was NOT in fact Gwen Stefani, or a younger sibling of Gwen Stefani. The remainder of the cast consists of notable performances from Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, and Leland Orser, as well as bit parts for Joel David Moore (JP!) and AJ Bowen, amongst others. Nobody was particularly bad, but I felt like Lance Reddick, as Major Carver, was a bit flat.
The other thing that Adam Wingard films do remarkably well? The soundtrack. When I watched A Horrible Way to Die, I couldn’t help but be distracted by the amazing soundtrack, which was blended perfectly with the movie, and had a vintage sound to it that brought me back to the days of VHS tapes and Neon Leon glow in the dark bracelets. I got the exact same feeling from the You’re Next soundtrack, which I went and bought immediately after watching the movie. I’m listening to The Guest soundtrack as I type this. Without a doubt the absolute best part of this movie is the soundtrack. If you grew up watching thriller and horror tapes in the 80’s, this soundtrack is an amazing trip down memory lane. Even if you don’t dig the movie, the OST is worth tracking down.
The Adam Wingard fan in my really wanted to like The Guest. Even as things got progressively worse, I kept trying to defend it. Unfortunately, while well done from a technical standpoint, I just couldn’t get past the mediocre script and ridiculous final act. If you’re an Adam Wingard die hard, as I am, there are things to enjoy, particularly the soundtrack, but this will likely be viewed as a misstep for the director. If you’re not a fan, this certainly won’t change your mind.