In my assessment, “The Guest” was the biggest crowd-pleaser of this years “/slash ½”-festival. And while I liked it too, I was not quite as smitten by it as most others were. It took me a while to figure out why, but then it hit me: While I thought that the movie was quite funny and very entertaining, it didn’t work for me as a horror and/or thriller movie. At all.
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Granted, it probably didn’t help that there were two people in the cinema who seemingly were already quite drunk, and thus found everything that happened extremely amusing – even though I got the feeling that said scenes weren’t meant to be quite as funny as they perceived them to be. Yes, of course there’s a certain humor to be found in a killer that is well-mannered enough to actually apologize for what he did to his victims, but still, in my mind, those scenes were also supposed to be quite tragic, if not disturbing. After all, we’re talking about people that we’ve come to know – and like? – over the course of the movie. Now, maybe I’m reading it wrong, and it actually was supposed to be just funny, and nothing else. If so, however, I think that it was the wrong call. And if not, I don’t think that Wingard and Barrett were successful in giving those scenes the gravitas they – in my mind – deserved.
Anyway, for whatever reason, I didn’t really find “The Guest” very gripping. There were a couple of nice, tense moments interspersed in the first hour of the movie, but everything after the big shootout – including the showdown – didn’t manage to grab me. Maybe it’s because I had a strong indication of who’s going to live and die, which ultimately was proven right – which also meant that after a certain point, I already knew that no one else (whom we as audience care about, at least) are going to bite the dust. The Halloween-Haunted House-setting, which felt a little forced to me, probably didn’t help. Same can be said about the young boy, who was just naive beyond hope. And I really didn’t care for the ending. I’m not a horror expert, and there are definitely a lot of classics that I still haven’t seen, but even I have a hard time accepting one more scene where the good guys are too stupid to just finish the bad guy off. Just put a bullet in his brain, and be fucking done with it.
Having said all that… if we look at “The Guest” only as a (horror) comedy, than it largely works really well. I loved the setup, and the way David slowly finds his way into this family, increasingly gaining their trust. Dan Stevens is absolutely great in the role. He’s equally charming and disconcerting – and also unnaturally sexy and gorgeous (and I’m saying that as a 100% heterosexual male; well, maybe after seeing this movie, only 99%). There’s one scene where he’s pretty much “Coca-Cola man 2.0” – a thought that really made me laugh. I also loved that for once, the blond gal (played by Maika Monroe, who some might recognize from “It Follows”) actually is the most clever one of the bunch; that was definitely a welcome deviation from the norm. Also, the entire movie is incredibly entertaining, and offers up many funny, hilarious scenes. Ultimately, though, I would have preferred a movie like “The Voices”, which managed to be funny and disturbing in equal measure. By contrast, “The Guest” offers up “just” nice, fluff entertainment, but without any meat, and with no tonal shift. It worked great as a comedy – but unfortunately, as least for me, as nothing much else.