Ahoy, squirts! Quint here. You can tell I like a midnight movie at Sundance when the timestamp on the review is within a few hours of it showing. Because let me tell you something... when you get a couple days into the 10 day long festival sleep time becomes the most precious commodity you have. Especially folks like me that have to fit in interviews, transcriptions and writing into a day that begins with a 9am movie and ends with a midnight.
This sounds suspiciously like I'm complaining, but I'm really not. I volunteer for this and every year I don't go I get super moody and jealous of everybody else that does. It is simply a reality covering this fest. Sleep not only wins that post final screening of the day internal debate, sometimes it kneecaps you in the parking lot and makes the decision for you. I've literally fallen asleep at the keyboard in previous years and I expect by Monday or Tuesday I will again this year.
The point I'm making is that you know I that I am revved up and super excited about talking about a midnight movie when I don't just crawl immediately into bed and save the review writing for whatever downtime I have the next day.
Tonight I saw The Guest and as I type these words it's 3:40am, I stood out in the cold for half an hour waiting for a shuttle back to the general vicinity of my condo and I've surpassed 20 hours of being awake. Yet here I am. Excitedly telling you that The Guest is super fucking fun and a different, yet worthy followup to Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett's previous film YOU'RE NEXT.
Now the trick is telling you that it is awesome without spoiling the reasons for it being awesome. Let's start simple: The Cast. To my great shame, I have not watched more than the first two or three episodes of Downton Abbey, so I'm late to the party on this Dan Stevens guy, but he is the lead of this movie and knocks it out of the park. I'm talking flashes of Risky Business-era Tom Cruise charm mixed with moments of Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner menace.
He's going to be a massive star someday soon and I don't even feel nervous making a huge declaration like that based solely on seeing one performance of his. He's that good in this. His is the title character, a man who shows up on the doorstep of a family in mourning, claiming to be a squad member of their KIA son. There's something a little too nice and kind about this guy and immediately my brain started laying track as to where this could go. He was surely some kind of con artist or worse, some kind of psychopath. But I was fucking wrong. You're fucking wrong. We're all fucking wrong.
The dad in this family is played by Leland Orser, a fantastic character actor you'll recognize from Se7en, Very Bad Things, Saving Private Ryan and as one of the best things about Alien: Resurrection. He's a little twitchy, a bit argumentative, but has so many funny quirks that you relish every time he's on the screen.
Sheila Kelley, known mostly for her TV work like ER, Lost and Gossip Girl, plays the mother, who is super innocent and is the most open to letting this peculiarly polite stranger into her family.
Then there are the kids, the surviving brother and sister, respectively. I'm going to start with Brendan Meyer, who is a teenage introvert. He's a sad guy, gets beaten up at school, but he's smart in a way that most smart kids aren't presented in movies like this. He's not nerdy at all, just introverted. Meyer KILLS it here, he's so good. If I could give an award for best reaction shots of Sundance he'd be the one to beat. Very expressive, naturally funny, but still grounded and real. He's able to get laughs out of the audience without there being a joke if you know what I mean.
Maika Monroe is the female lead, the 20 year old daughter and the most resistant/questioning of this new person in her life. She's the lovely lady in the pic above. She's for sure the female lead of the movie, but one of the things I love about the flick is that everybody is given a moment (or four) before the third act starts up and shit starts getting Cannon style crazy.
And I mean that. The tone shifts on a dime in much the same way the tone shifted in Cabin in the Woods. It's not exactly the same in that it's not really presented as a twist or turning an expectation from a genre stereotype on its head... it's more like the already entertaining movie takes a sharp left turn into Crazytown.
I'm willing to bet that turn into Cannon territory is going to alienate some people, but for me (and, judging by the reaction at my screening, most movie people) it hit some crazy euphoric movie nerd buttons.
Who else? Well, there's Chase Williamson, who was great in Don Coscarelli's John Dies At The End playing Maika's likeable stoner boyfriend. And then there's Ethan Embry who pops up in a great cameo bit... once you guys see Cheap Thrills you'll understand that we are witnessing the second coming of Ethan Embry. Into the cocoon he went a sweetly awkward teen heartthrob and out he emerged a certified, intimidating badass.
There's also Fringe/The Wire's Lance Reddick and You're Next's AJ Bowen who show up as well, although I can't talk much about what they do without fear of spoiling the fun for you guys.
I can't stress enough the fun tone throughout. The Guest is just a charming, funny movie. The cast all together give nuance to an already funny script. Wingard seems more focused as a director than he has been before. This one is more polished than his previous work, more assured.
Oh, and it's set over Halloween, which is unquestionably the most awesome holiday we as human beings observe, so double bonus.
And the score! No matter the fate of this movie, whether it is picked up and thrown out on 2000 screens or it ends up in some okay VOD release genre score nerds will be seeking out Steve Moore's amazing synth score. Mondo or Death Waltz will release a limited LP and everything will be right in the world.
At the Q&A Wingard said that the basis for the score was starting with the scores from Terminator and Halloween 3 and building from there if that gives you any idea how awesome the work in The Guest is.
I expect this one will get picked up at Sundance or in a bigger deal in the days immediately following. The blogger press attending all had a blast with it, the audience at it up and frankly it's just too good not to have the best distributors lining up to have a crack and giving this film to the world.
I have no idea if anybody outside of geeks will like this movie, but I do know that I loved it and I think a whole lot of you reading this will agree with me.
I'll keep you guys updated on the deals surrounding this flick so we may get an idea of when it'll come out.
That's about all I have to say without ruining some of the more fun discoveries of this movie, so I think I'll cut it off here, crawl into bed and catch a few hours before another full day out in the wilds of Park City.
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