The Guest ★★★

Expectations can heavily influence a movie-viewing experience, and in the case of The Guest, mine were high for all the wrong reasons. I knew two meta things about the film: it was a thrilling return to form, and it was near-universally acclaimed by critics and festival audiences. I also knew the vague synopsis: a young Iraq war veteran shows up at a family’s doorstep, and when they take him in, violent undertones begin.

What I’d failed to anticipate was the form it was returning to. The Guest is a heavy throwback to 80’s horror tropes, complete with neon title cards, an unstoppable baddie, and a Drive-style pop soundtrack juxtaposed against the bloodshed. But Drive it was not, nor did it try to be. Grindhouse, maybe. It didn’t elevate the ridiculous horror tropes — it respectfully (albeit gleefully) committed to them, squeezing them into an action/thriller synopsis where they don’t normally belong. It’s a clever inversion in hindsight, but in the present it was indistinguishable from the same one-dimensional thing it homaged. Maybe “genre movie” is my white wine, and above “$5 Trader Joe’s bottle” they all taste the same to me. Or maybe the emperor really has no clothes, and it was just dumb fun after all. Either way I had a fine time (way better than the terribly campy Lucy), but nothing special.