Cave Of Cult sat down and chatted with THE GUEST writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard.
CofC: I didn’t think you could top You’re Next as a thrill a minute crowd pleaser but The Guest does this in droves. Great performances all round but particularly from Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe.The Guest isn’t a straight horror film but a self aware 80’s throw back which reference’s classics of the genre such as The Hitcher, Halloween, The Stepfather and The Terminator.How did The Guest come about?
ADAM: It’s an interesting process we’ve had over the years when we initially started making movies. The decision making process, in terms of picking the project, was always based on what can we actually get the funding for to make this movie. With our first film (the serial killer movie A Horrible Way To Die) we decided to pick a sub-genre as we thought we can get funding with a title like that. Similarly, with You’re Next, we wanted to try something that had a more mainstream appeal so we picked the home invasion genre knowing we could get funding. When You’re Next became a success and was bought by a major stuidio it put us in a whole different bracket.
Going into The Guest we found ourselves in a situation where we’d been working all our lives to get to this point.When I was growing up the whole idea of success to me would be making a relatively low budget movie and selling it at a major film festival to a studio for theatrical release.That’s what actually happened and we thought ”Holy shit, we did it!”.We hadn’t actually thought beyond that point. So now we can actually choose our project not based on what can we get the funding for but what type of movie we want to make as filmmakers. We became so sick of horror after You’re Next that we wanted to make an action film. We flew to South Korea a couple of times location scouting but we were thinking too logically in terms of let’s use this opportunity to spur our careers into not just being labelled the ‘horror’ guys .
SIMON: I think we were still trying to think in the old way.I think with A Horrible Way To Die and You’re Next it was always like what’s the slightly bigger version of the film that’s the best for our careers and actually getting a movie sold and seen by viewers.The right thing to do was to stop making movies in this very logical way and start thinking creatively because for the first time in our careers we had that freedom and it took us a little while to think that way.
ADAM: Ultimately what we realised was we wanted to make a movie that wasn’t an obvious sub-genre. We wanted to make something that more personified the reason we got into film making to begin with. In a way The Guest is a love letter to an amalgamation of nostalgic 80’s and 90’s cinema without being too specific.I think the main influences are from Halloween and The Terminator.Me and Simon had read this book Shock Value.It’s an interesting book because it breaks down Dan O’Bannon and John Carpenter’s careers and how horror cinema developed in the 70’s and 80’s. It made me realise I still loved horror films and didn’t need to shy away from the genre just because I didn’t want to be boxed in.The book got me interested in doing a horror film again but it needed to be distinctly ours.
CofC: Were you influenced in any of the direct to video horror films of that era?
SIMON:Not directly because in the US we didn’t have these until the early 90’s. At that time films like Re-Animator and Evil Dead 2 were getting complex staggered theatrical releases. We were trying to take inspiration from that golden era of stylistically and dramatically innovative US horror movies.
CofC: The comedy was less overt in The Guest as opposed to You’re Next. Was it intentional to tone down the comedy element?
SIMON: The way we approach humour in our films is very organic to the story that we are telling. We don’t lazily reference a character by calling him ‘Carpenter’ or something.We don’t do that.For us our personal sense of humour is dry and sarcastic .You’re Next was more over the top and ridiculous than The Guest. I think the humour was perhaps more overt in You’re Next as more people have been aware of the comedy in The Guest. People are used to horror movies being unintentionally funny because they can be so incredibly bad!
ADAM: You’re Next is much more of a straight forward horror film and your standard horror audience didn’t really get the nuances in some places.
SIMON: A hell of a lot of people did not get the comedy in You’re Next. I know this after checking out multiple user reviews on Netflix and amazon! You never want to second guess yourself or make any creative decisions based on amazon user reviews!
ADAM:Dan Stevens character David is the main entry point to the sense of humor and a lot of that is getting that 80s aesthetic down. If a character is being bitchy and they walk away from David then we hold on him showing that he finds it funny, he smiles and we’re on board with him. It’s about letting the audience know that you’re in on the joke without directly winking at them and let them know this is a comfortable place to be.The Guest unfolds a little bit slower with the humour than even You’re Next did in some ways because we wanted to set up certain expectations early on in the film that maybe this is going to be some kind of depressing family drama. The overt humour of the film doesn’t really start playing until around 15 minutes into the film when they go to the bar. This is when the movie comes alive and you’ll notice that’s when the soundtrack really takes a turn.
CofC: The Guest has a fantastic soundtrack and it really sets the whole mood and pace of the film.
ADAM:Music for us has always been a real key point in our way of switching the stylisatiion in a subtle way as the movie progresses. The music gets more bombastic whenever the tone of the film becomes much more stylised as well.
SIMON: You’re Next did the same thing.The synth music kicks in when Erin (Sharni Vinson) really starts fighting back and evening up the odds in the film.That’s our moment of saying stop being scared now and start enjoying this film on a different level, think of it less a horror movie and more a screwball comedy.
THE GUEST opens nationwide today.