Cert: 15 / 100 mins / Dir. Adam Wingard
If I were running my local branch of HMV (I'm not. It's closed), I'd be scratching my chin in about three months time, wondering which section Adam Wingard's The Guest should be placed in. More worryingly, I'm not entirely sure Mr Wingard would be able to tell me, either. Ostensibly a sassy, visceral thriller, the film has the aesthetic and cast-list of one of those young-adult novel adaptations, but with more head-shots, neck-shots and stabbings than I think I've seen in a 15-Cert movie before (and wet ones, too).
When an enigmatic (and crucially, good looking) young man arrives at the home of a US soldier killed in action claiming he served with the family's son, a mysterious chain of events is set in motion as David sets about 'helping' the family with their individual problems; whether they want (or even know) it, or not…
Praise where it's due, The Guest is a ridiculous amount of fun, with the soundtrack of Drive, the violence of Lock Stock, and a plot reminiscent slightly of I Am Number Four. Unfortunately, the buildup of goodwill comes undone in the third act with a plethora of unanswered questions and unabashed silliness. As bonkers as the screenplay has been up to that point, the audience accepts this in lieu of the explanation which is promised for later. That explanation arrives in the form of more questions which appear to be holding the door open for a sequel, but it feels like a hastily assembled patch over an unfinished idea (or, more infuriatingly, an ending which was changed due to budgetary or practicality issues).
Because at least some of the 'mysterious events' take place off-screen, the film doesn't bother to explain them and only mentions that they've happened, adhering to the tenets of neither show, nor tell. The first two acts build the tension and intrigue well, although I don't think Dan Stevens has quite got the gravitas required for his role (you get the impression they didn't have the budget for Bradley Cooper). He does the charm and furtive looks like a natural, but the screenplay doesn't let his brooding-face play those traits out to their natural conclusion, and instead goes full pantomime in its finale with gunfire and garbled exposition (not from Stevens; he says less and less as the film goes on).
For all the shooting, the open-ended character motivation is the real killer here, because without a clear picture of what David hopes to achieve ('gone nuts' doesn't cut it, I'm afraid), there's no reason for the story to have taken place. It feels like that in different hands (and with another draft of the screenplay), this could have been a darker and more effective thriller. The script even throws up the suggestion of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder at one point, instantly nullifying the notion that that's what the film's really about. Unless it really is the kind of cack-handed metaphor which needs to literally introduce itself, of course.
The action's there; the gags are there; the plot is batshit-crazy and unfinished. The Guest is entertaining enough, but neither as original nor adrenalised as it'd like you to think.
Don't expect too much, you won't be let down.
Well, for the first 70 minutes, or so.
I don't think it does.
This has had a very limited cinema release in the UK, but catch it there if you like your silliness BIG.
I will, but it'll probably be on Netflix or similar.
Did anyone else watch the climactic fight-scene in a maze of mirrors, and picture the Director Of Photography rubbing his temples as the writer gleefully explained what he wanted?
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