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  Guest, The The Madness Never Ends
Year: 2014
Director: Adam Wingard
Stars: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick, Tabatha Shaun, Chase Williamson, Joel David Moore, Stephen Brown, Brendan Wedner, Alex Knight, Ethan Embry, Nancy Jeris, Matthew Page, Katie Anne Mitchell, Frank Bond
Genre: Horror, Action, ThrillerBuy from Amazon
Rating:  8 (from 1 vote)
Review: The Peterson family have suffered a recent bereavement when the eldest son died in combat overseas, and the experience has left them alternately numb and wrestling with their trauma. The mother, Laura (Sheila Kelley), is left alone with her thoughts one morning as her husband Spencer (Leland Orser) and two remaining children leave for the day, son Luke (Brendan Meyer) for school while her grown daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) has a job at the local diner. But just as tears well in Laura's eyes, she hears the doorbell and rouses herself from her misery: answering it, she finds a handsome stranger standing on the doorstep. He introduces himself as David (Dan Stevens), and informs her the dead son was his best friend in the army...

Come the twenty-first century, there were obviously a group of genre filmmakers from across the globe who had grown up watching the same movies and therefore had the same cultural touchstones. These were not often the high falutin' masters of world cinema some of their most notable predecessors would claim as influences, but makers of no-nonsense action, thriller, horror and comedy efforts of a more recent vintage, and this fresh brood set about attempting to replicate just what it was that gave them an often visceral thrill about watching those cult favourites. Sometimes this would result in blockbuster sequels or remakes to films seemingly in the recent memory.

And other times you would get something like The Guest, not a high budgeted work but a medium to low budget, down and dirty, wear those influences on the sleeve thrill ride which did not so much set out to utterly copy those favourites of the filmmakers' formative years, but make a tribute in that vein, almost as if directors like John Carpenter, David Cronenberg, John Woo, James Cameron, Kathryn Bigelow, Wes Craven and so on had never progressed beyond an ambition to craft precisely the same entertainments as they had in their career heydays. Not many of these resulting items would challenge the originals for their crown, but with The Guest director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett undoubtedly gave their heroes a run for their money.

Another thriller where it was best not to know too much about the plot before you saw it, this owed a debt to both the plethora of cheap slasher moves that erupted from the eighties and the more social commentary strain of genre movies. Indeed, though many picked up on the Carpenter influence, not least in the perfectly chosen synth score from Steve Moore and various existing electronic artistes, perhaps the film this most resembled was Bob Clark's Deathdream, as each made a statement about what sending a generation off to war was doing to the psychology of their home nations. Whereas the seventies horror had the Vietnam War to concern itself, The Guest was worrying over a climate that saw the solutions to problems large and small delivered with violence, which in turn spawned more violence to be solved.

It's a vicious circle, perfectly summed up by the traditions of the slasher movie where no matter how hefty your arsenal, there always seemed not only a climactic scene where the killer sprang up once again in spite of serious injury, but a sequel announced to start the cycle all over again; you could count the remake craze as part of that as well. Wingard and Barrett were well aware of these conventions as their plot crept into that cheerfully schlocky territory, with David initially helping out Luke with a bullying issue he is suffering at school, then seeing off an overbearing boyfriend of one of Anna's pals, but before you know it he is asking the resident go-to guy to see if he can secure him a gun, and we understand it would probably be better if those who most want firearms are better off without them, at least in this context. All the way through, Stevens offered a starmaking performance, charismatic but menacing, matched by Monroe as the suspicious Anna. That final line of dialogue tipped this over from riproaring throwback to a laugh out loud, smart and gleeful gem.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark


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