M.L. Miller here! As I go into the tenth year of reviewing horror films, I wanted to go back to the beginning and repost some of the films I loved. Moving on to Year Four of my year-long Retro-Best in Horror I’m recapping the Countdown beginning officially on October 1, 2013 and going through September 30, 2014. I have posted compilation lists in the past, but a lot of those old reviews haven’t seen the light of day since they were first posted many moons ago. Being the OCD person that I am, I have also worked and reworked the list, looking back at my own choices and shifting them around, and even adding a few that I might have missed or looked over from the year in question. So, if you think you know how these lists are going to turn out, you don’t!

How did I compile this list? I simply looked through films released between October 1st, 2013 and September 30, 2014 and worked and reworked the list until I had the magic number—31. Again, I never call myself any kind of expert in horror. I simply watch a lot of horror films and love writing about them. Don’t forget to like and share my picks with your pals across the web on your own personal social media. Chime in after the review and let me know what you think of the film, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, or most importantly, come up with your own darn list…let’s go!

Released on September 17, 2014. Available on digital download, On Demand, and DVD/Blu-ray!

THE GUEST (2014)

Directed by Adam Wingard
Written by Simon Barrett
Starring Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick, Tabatha Shaun, Chase Williamson, Joel David Moore, Alex Knight, Ethan Embry, AJ Bowen
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!

Warning: I’m going to use the word “cool” a million and one times in this review. And while I do own a thesaurus and try by hardest to use it as often as I can, there’s one word that I keep returning to when I think of THE GUEST and that’s “cool.”

To call THE GUEST a horror film would not really be accurate. While THE GUEST certainly has horrific elements and a sense of mystery, it really does feel more like a mission statement from (up to now) horror director Adam Wingard and (up to now) writer Simon Barrett to let everyone know that this is a writer/director team worth paying attention to and capable of crossing genres. THE GUEST is a confident film. It’s its own monster and comfortable being that, which makes it much more entertaining in the end.

The story begins with an enigmatic guest who calls himself David (played by DOWNTON ABBEY heartthrob Dan Stevens) arriving at the modest Peterson home. Identifying himself as serving with their deceased son in the war, the stranger is invited by the family into their home and while David is charming as all get out, soon we see that he’s not the peachy-keen nice guy he wants them to believe. I don’t want to reveal anything else other than the fact that this is a film that narratively snowballs to gargantuan proportions by the end of the movie, swelling to sizes and proportions I haven’t seen in a movie since the early days of Carpenter and Cameron; two directors that this film owes a lot to.

The highlight of the film is watching Dan Stevens charm his way in and out of every sticky situation he faces. In this movie universe, Stevens is the always the coolest guy in the room and while later, cracks in the cool armor begin to show, he maintains that level of awesome that will make this THE film people refer to when Stevens becomes a big star. Whether he is fighting in a bar, shooting someone in the face, or just carving a jack o’ lantern, Stevens commands every scene comfortably and confidently in this star-making role.

But it would be pretty boring if Stevens just sat there and did nothing but look cool for the duration of the movie. That’s where the unpredictable and downright brilliant story by Simon Barrett comes in. Unfolding like a typical action movie, Barrett channels films like THE TERMINATOR, LITTLE NIKITA, UNCLE BUCK, NOWHERE TO RUN, THE WRAITH, and tons of 80’s simple but awesome films and funnels it through Adam Wingard’s eyeball (which as you all know is a camera from watching V/H/S/2) and imbues it with John Carpenter-esque music beats and a heavy dose of the electro-magic that permeated another recent retro-cool film DRIVE.

By the end of THE GUEST, the action, dialog, and story has escalated to such a level of ridiculousness that I should have checked out, but since everything leading up to it was so…cool, I didn’t give a shit. In the end, there are bullets, fire, kicks, mist, knives, blood, punches, music, and pulse-pounding action. All of it was stuff I’ve seen in other films before, but this particular amalgamation of it all felt so original that I couldn’t help but just sit back and quit trying to remember what movie this part reminded me of and just soak in the coolness. From it’s awesome electro-emo soundtrack to the fantastic performances by the entire cast (especially the fantastic Maika Monroe who is going to be overshadowed by Stevens here, but should garner equal praise in a fair and true world), THE GUEST is a film that will make you stand up and cheer by the end of it.

And while I don’t think a sequel explaining things going on leading up to this film and continuing after it is necessary, I’d love to see one. The ambiguity of THE GUEST, though, is part of its charm and I kind of hope this film just remains a little gem of a film and stays like that while everyone involved moves on to bigger things as a result of it. No explanation is necessary here. THE GUEST doesn’t try to explain itself. It simply is. And what it is—is cool!

THE 2013-2014 COUNTDOWN!

#13 – TUSK
#15 – FOUND
#16 – PLUS ONE

M. L. Miller is a wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of MLMILLERWRITES.COM. Follow @Mark_L_Miller.

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