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I admit that I have been waiting for the next film from Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett since seeing their last one, YOU’RE NEXT. The pair have a way of creating astute character studies while also embracing genre films with a piquant elan.
I was not disappointed.
THE GUEST is smart, scary, and a fascinating exercise in the psychology of the audience as much as that of the characters on screen. This tale of a stranger welcomed into a dysfunctional family and restoring a sort of order with unorthodox methods works as a thriller, an action film, and a horror film, all three of which challenge the audience while keeping it enormously entertained. Expected tropes are woven into a literate script that brings the viewer up short while finding surprises in what should be hoary clichés.
When I spoke to the pair by phone, I asked them to expand on the way they have of toying with the audience, before moving on to the homage to the music of the 80s, what they’re afraid of, and the masterful way they used a key light to highlight Dan Steven’s devastatingly piercing blue eyes. They then revealed the subconscious cues that they put in Steven’s character that made us in the audience uneasy watching him, even when he was at his most charming.
THE GUEST is a film about keeping promises, defending the underdog, and weaponized cocktails. The film centers on David, a vet invited into the home of the Petersons, whose deceased son and brother David knew in Afghanistan. Perfectly polite, painfully considerate, David is the perfect houseguest, and, as it turns out, the perfect friend for Luke, who is dealing with bullies at his middle school, the perfect salve for Luke’s mother, still grieving for her son, and the perfect ego boost for Spencer, Luke’s father who is not getting the respect he feels he deserves at his job. As coincidences pile up in the Peterson family’s favor, daughter Anna begins to suspect that David may be too good to be true, a suspicion that comes to a head in an iconic maze of mirrors just before Halloween. The film stars Dan Stevens as the eponymous guest, as well as Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe, Brenden Myer, Leland Orser, and Lance Reddick. Wingard directed from Barrett’s script, and their previous work includes the sublimely funny and perceptive YOU’RE NEXT.
Click on the link to listen to the interview (16:54) THE GUEST — Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett Interview.