Midnight Madness Report: The Guest
Staying up very late to watch an Adam Wingard film has become something of a sure bet for the Midnight Madness crowd. During the introduction for Saturday’s closing night film, The Guest, programmer Colin Geddes admitted that director Wingard and writer Simon Barrett’s previous film, 2011’s slasher send-up You’re Next, was “specifically made for Midnight Madness.”
Before the screening, Wingard asked for a “show of hands for everybody who’s drunk or on illegal narcotics,” then joked that “everyone else can leave.” Lucky for boozers and stoners, not only is Wingard and Berrett’s latest baby as much of a late-night crowd pleaser as You’re Next, it’s easily the most gleefully entertaining genre flick of the year.
Like his role on Dowton Abbey, Dan Stevens plays a dashing, well-mannered man. Completely unlike his British TV role, in The Guest Stevens is also a psychotic war vet who goes on a killing spree. He also has an American accent, but that’s somewhat less alarming.
The unrelenting tension—and gallows humour—begins when David Collins (Stevens) shows up at the door of the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their late soldier son. David’s mysterious presence seems too good to be true after he beats up a bunch of bullies for the family’s teenaged son Luke (Brendan Meyer) and parties hard with daughter Anna’s (Maika Monroe, who also stars in Midnight Madness’ equally fantastic It Follows) pals. Of course, David isn’t just sticking around to make new friends—he’s on the lam from some seriously dangerous military dudes.
The Guest’s final act is tonally bonkers and balls-out thrilling, so the less you know, the better. Like You’re Next, The Guest has tonnes of fun with genre tropes (in this case, ’80s/’90s horror and action). Both films include myriad bloody fatalities, but in both cases Wingard rarely lingers on the gruesome stuff, which is nice. His kills are quick and dirty, and always more exhilarating than harrowing.
After the screening, the audience was treated to a Q&A with Wingard, Berrett, Monroe, Meyer, and, of course, Stevens, who briefly—and comically—wrestled with his director. Wingard explained to the audience how he and Berrett “initially tried to do an action movie, but soon went back to the drawing board.” Not long after, Wingard watched a double bill of The Terminator and Halloween, and “everything clicked […] those movies personified the reason why I became a filmmaker.”
As for Stevens, he called The Guest “the funniest script I read in ages.” Not so sure his precious Downton Abbey fans would agree with that.