Around this time every year, for most horror fans the anticipation of October and the Halloween season builds to a boil. Mid September is usually when I myself get ready to really kick the celebrating into gear (well more so than the rest of the years usual horror shenanigans I suppose). Whether it’s buying decorations, pumpkin flavored treats, checking out all the fun costume related stuff in stores or working on my own October related projects, this is that time of year I truly feel more alive and motivated than others. Of course with October and Halloween comes the tradition of movie watching. Horror films are the life blood of the month for most and rightfully so. Even my non horror fanatic friends enjoy watching a good scary movie or two during the season. That brings us to the point of this little write up, each season we are treated (or punished) with various attempts by filmmakers and studios to cash in on everyone’s desire to be scared for a few weeks. Sometimes we get some genuinely enjoyable well crafted films and sometimes we get pure crap (why be nice about it?) This year I am pleased to say that the best Halloween themed movie we will probably get this year isn’t really even a “horror” film at all.
The Guest is director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett’s latest film. This is the same duo that brought us last years most enjoyable theater going experience (for me anyway) “You’re Next”. That film ( which is cleverly nodded to twice during The Guest, keep an eye out) really caught me by surprise as I approached it as I try to do with most films. Go in knowing as little about it as possible. It turned what could have been a boring and silly rehash of the home invasion sub genre into a different, thrilling, gore filled good time. Speaking of thrilling, that is exactly what I suppose one would classify The Guest as. This story of a stranger (played with a perfect blend of charming and menace by Dan Stevens) who shows up at a familys home with the story about how he served with their son in the military and was with him when he passed away, needless to say, he becomes their guest and then things get real (which is about all of the plot you will get out of me as I don’t spoil films) This is not a “horror” film, sure it certainly has aspects and events that are horrific and has many familiar themes a horror film carries, but still, I don’t feel like I would classify it as one and that is what makes it such a refreshing watch.
Now before everyone says “well its not a horror film, why are you even reviewing it?” Let me just state it may not be a straight up horror film, but it is certainly a perfect film to be watched during the Halloween season. The Guest is filled to the brim with Halloween imagery, as it is set on the last two weeks of October, everything is decorated for the holiday. Almost every scene has some sort of orange, black and purple to it, whether its just a pumpkin in the background or some other type of decoration that sneaks into almost every shot, Halloween itself is a major character in this film. There are Halloween parties and Haunted House style set pieces that make it perfect viewing for this time of year. The Halloween influence doesn’t stop at production design, nor does it only include the actual holiday. The Guest features enough nods and love letters to our beloved Halloween film series to make every horror fan smile. Some obvious and awesome (Halloween 3) and others more noticeable to those with a quick eye and attention to detail (Halloween 4). The film itself feels like the type of film old school John Carpenter would make if he was transported 30+ years into the future and used that enthusiasm he had back then to direct today. This again is obviously a good thing and exactly why I feel this film will appeal to most horror and Halloween fans. Wingard knows exactly what he is going for here and succeeds in achieving that. Also cannot forget the fact The Guest earns its hard R rating for the most part with good ol’ violence of the practical fx kind. No cgi blood here.
Lastly I must make mention of the incredible score and soundtrack usage found within The Guest. As stated up above, there is a heavy Carpenter influence running throughout the film, this is not exclusive to only the look of the film, but also the sound. Remember how everyone (myself included) fell in love with the synth heavy retro styled soundtrack to the Ryan Gosling flick “Drive” ? and later went nuts (again so did I) over its horror drenched cousin the impeccable “Maniac” remake score by Rob. I will be surprised if the same doesn’t happen here. Full of pulsing synth heavy tracks, the soundtrack on its own is enough to do the job, every scene is matched up perfectly and taken to another level by the inclusion of the obviously carefully placed tracks. However in addition to the songs found in the film, the score performed by Steve Moore is a perfect compliment to the imagery and blends seamlessly with the other sounds in the film. My favorite portion of the synth heavy score were the jarring and ominous “stabs” that could be straight out of the Halloween 3 or 2 score. As soon as any of this music kicks in it will no doubt win people over. It’s just as good as the “Erin”s theme” Carpenter-esque portions of the “You’re Next” score everyone seemed to love (and is still waiting for an official version of) Overall all the music featured in The Guest is what really for me anyway, pulled everything together.
So there you have it, The Guest is the Halloween movie you should definitely check out that isn’t really a movie about Halloween, even though some of its biggest inspirations are firmly culled from the classic Halloween film series. It’s not a perfect film and there are some issues I have here and there, but those are easily overlooked when you just go along for the ride the creators are trying to take you on. The performances here are all pretty much on point, as stated up above Dan Stevens plays his role to perfection and his co-star Maika Monroe who plays the main protagonist Anna really does a good job playing off of Stevens performance. The rest of the supporting cast also do their jobs admirably. For a fun time at the theaters that will still count towards the spirit of the season this October, see the Guest, and dont forget to pick up that soundtrack while you are at it.