First off, a special shout out to Thy Critic Man who reviewed this flick a few months back and had me itching to see it. Just with one review! So I must give Mr Critic Man credit, as if I hadn’t read his review, I’d probably not have ever watched this movie, as I had never heard of it before, nor its director. Many thanks my Canadian brother!
Finally, us lesser beings down under are able to watch this under-the-radar, tension filled, action-packed romp of a film that has you asking questions from the very first scene. The ‘Guest’s’ exact motives are not clear at first, his words seem harmless but his eyes or a jump in the soundtrack suggest otherwise. This creates a great feeling of tension that doesn’t really let up until the end of the movie. We know as soon as the movie starts that something isn’t right, that this guy isn’t as honest as his charms and likeable looks may suggest, but we also initially have no idea of the scope; what exactly is being planned here? Who is he?? Where is this going? This is the real genius of this flick and such a simple and perhaps overused concept generates unbearable amounts of tension at times, not to mention the inevitable moments when you will cringe as your heart stops if one of his new housemates becomes suspicious. When we do get a slight peek into who he is, the sort of person he is, the movie changes gear swiftly and smoothly into a nice blend of action, suspense and black comedy. A nice trio!
This flick is unlike anything I have seen before. While the welcome but not-so-welcome guest concept isn’t original at all, where this movie goes considering this opening concept is unexpected to say the least. The arrival of a mysterious guest had me thinking that this would be a slower film, but it certainly doesn’t take long for the guest to introduce a nice dash of violence into the lives of the family he is staying with. But of course, each time he takes matters into his own mits, he is on the family’s side and is seen as being helpful, so the kids aren’t as quick to be suspicious. When they do become suspicious and have their fears confirmed, the movie moves into another direction again, creating an extremely tense situation every time he is accused of anything, as we have parties within the family who are convinced of his bad intentions butting heads with other members of the family who start, somewhat unexplicably I might add, trusting him as if he is a family friend.
What I really loved about this one was the dark comedic aspect, somewhat remiscent of the Coen’s sense of humour. I laughed out loud several times, and all at different types of situations; one involving a rather innapropriate song being played during a sequence of violent events. In my opinion, the film needs this comedic streak, as it is far from perfect; on a few occasions certain events are extremely predictable, much unlike the unfolding of the plot, and on a few other occasions the family he is staying with seem just a bit too ignorant to feel right. But this was all forgiven and forgotten each time I laughed, many times during the action scenes themselves. Much of the comedy stems from the very dark sense of humour that the guest seems to possess, as some of the stunts he pulls off are hard not to laugh at. Another quirky, amusing trait of his is that he talks in an amazingly polite manner, despite being so violent and lacking remorse.
The film also has a memorable soundtrack, and while some of the songs used weren’t to my taste, they somehow seemed to fit the film almost perfectly, with some lyrics offering a glimpse into what the characters could be feeling about this sudden stranger-turned-friend. The soundtrack really cranks up during the final act, and this, combined with the extremely creative setting it takes place in, really makes for one trip of a final sequence. In fact, the climax here really turns the soundtrack up to 11, and its synth-filled songs combined with the overall look creates a surreal feeling that feels like an acid-flashback funneled directly from the 80’s. Part of this surreal look is the lighting, taking some very subtle cues from Suspiria, with many rays of red light illuminating most of the climactic ending. All of these aspects can allow me to forgive the rather predictable sequence of events near the end of the movie – I sure as shit enjoyed myself.
I haven’t seen the director’s previous film, hell I had never heard of the director at all, but it sounds like I should check out any other movies by this director/writer duo, as I had no idea where this was going next at any given time. The violence certainly came earlier than I expected, but it holds up to the end and really makes for a unique film, whose next plot turn is often unpredictable. This movie excells as a dark comedy, with elements of violence and unrelenting tension to top off the tasty recipe.
What I really would have liked to see was a bit more exploration into who exactly the guest was. But, I suppose limiting such an explanation could be what makes the movie a bit of a guessing game and therefore a tense watch from start to finish. It also manages to cram in an absolute shitload of action and fun in under 90 minutes, which can’t be easy to do. Despite a few flaws, this is an exciting watch, one that is shot fantastically, especially during that final act. I feel I must also adknowledge the performance of Dan Stevens as the Guest. I saw him in a limited role in A Walk Among The Tombstones, and I liked the intensity he brought to his role. He surpasses that effort by an immeasurable margin, as he switches from his charm to his dark side like a chameleon, and much of the intensity he brings to the movie is done simply through those piercing eyes and intense facial expressions. This is not an actor I had seen before this month, but definetely one I’ll be keeping an eye on. The same applies to the director/writer combo; I must go back and watch You’re Next, and I can’t wait to see what they come up with next. Despite the seemingly pedestrian concept, this is a fun movie. Don’t forget your popcorn!
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