TIFF's Midnight Madness programme closed out last Saturday with the Canadian premiere of Adam Wingard's newest The Guest.
A mysterious stranger named David (Dan Stevens) shows up at the Peterson family residence saying that he served with their dead son. Is he is as charming and helpful as he appears, or is there something more sinister lying under his spit-shined demeanor?
The Guest was a terrific thriller with a wonderful eighties-style sensibility. I would recommend knowing as little as possible going in because it's best to just let the story unfold. There was real skill involved in how its simmering pace rapidly gave way to an explosive climax.
There were a trio of really strong elements to the piece that worked together in harmony, the first of which was the cast. Dan Stevens is phenomenal as the title character. I don't watch Downton Abbey, but this guy was charismatic as hell. Like many British actors before him, he was able to emanate charm and menace, all with just a glance. The female lead Maika Monroe, in her second appearance at Midnight this year, is also dynamite as Anna, the only member of the Peterson family who is distrustful of their new visitor.
|Dan Stevens as David in The Guest.|
The other two items of excellence were the visual palette and the fantastic soundtrack. The Guest is incredibly slick and definitely features the most ambitious set pieces Wingard has done to date. And not only content with an awesome synth-based score from Steve Moore – who also had music duties on the earlier Midnight selection Cub – the film also features a wonderful array of songs from artists such as Love & Rockets, Sisters of Mercy and Clan of Xymox.
At the Q&A following the screening, Wingard related the tale of being inspired to make The Guest after watching a VHS double bill of Halloween and The Terminator. He then went to his partner Simon Barrett who dusted off an abandoned drama script of his about PTSD and followed this new angle. While The Guest doesn't share much in terms of content with those two aforementioned films, there were definite similarities in tone.
|Director Adam Wingard, writer Simon Barrett & stars Brendan Meyer, Maika Monroe & Dan Stevens.|
The Guest was a real treat and fully deserving of all the positive buzz it received out of its premiere at Sundance. The well-oiled creative machine of Wingard & Barrett is now chugging along at full speed with no signs of slowing down and I, for one, couldn't be happier for them.