Adam Wingard and Simmon Barrett are film makers who have slowly, but surely, climbed their way to the top of (most?) genre fans short list. I only say slowly because they did so on their own terms. Making films they both have a strong passion for is apparent, but doing so in fun, creative spins on tired sub genres is why horror fans took notice. Last years You’re Next was a home invasion movie that offered more than just watching a family get picked off one at a time (although it did give you just that…). It was is becoming standard for them, Wingard and Barrett decided to not do what everyone excepted and follow up You’re Next with another bloody slasher flick. Instead they followed it up with a bloody thriller that features a 80’s synthpop soundtrack that would make John Carpenter jealous.
The Petersons are a small town family trying to hold it together after the death of their solider son, Caleb, in Iraq. The closure the family was probably never going to get comes knocking on the door in the form of dashingly good looking, David (Dan Stevens). David claims to be a solider stationed with Caleb when he was killed in combat. David made a promise to Caleb that he would look after Caleb’s family. It doesn’t take long before the Peterson family open their home to him and David will do whatever it takes to make sure his mission is complete.
I had never heard of Dan Stevens before this movie. Fellow Slack Jaw writer, Ben, had recently told me Stevens was on the weirdly popular Downtown Abbey. I’m not into shows about rich people sitting around and doing nothing for 60 minutes. If I was I’d watch Keeping Up with the Kardashains. My taste in television aside, I was smitten with Steven’s performance. David is a well mannered man with a charming southern accent that seems to know just what to say in any situation. David is a man in control. Be it sweet talking still grieving mother Laura (Sheila Kelley) or brutally teaching high school bullies lessons David owns his actions. Of course all this swagger (kids still say swagger right???) is only surface value and David is a ticking time bomb. A believe me when this bomb goes off no one is safe.
Anyone who has seen the trailer knows that something is up with David right out of the gate and Wingard does not try to keep it a secret. Although until the end, we don’t know exactly what is going on with David. This all leads to some great cat and mouse scenes and even a conspiracy theory ripped right out of the 70s.
Being a Barrett/Wingard joint (kids still call movies joints right???) you can expect some graphic gore, but I will say that compared to their early work The Guest is on tame side. Do not go into this movie thinking you won’t see any blood because you do (the last 20 minutes is a balls to the walls mayhem!), but the tension and dread Wingard creates building to these scenes just helps make them as hardcore as SFX company could ever do.
Wingard and Barrett have made their best movie to date. These are film makers who love the genre they work in and aren’t afraid to test the limits. Even when paying homage it never feels like they are winking at the audience. The Guest is best described as if John Woo decided to make DePalma thriller with a low budget and hired John Carpenter to handle the score. OR you can say that Adam Wingard made a badass horror movie. I like the second way better.