This is a summary of three underrated thriller movies from 2014 with generous splatters of blood: A New Zealand horror-comedy, Housebound; Adam Wingard’s straightforward action-thriller, The Guest; and a witted exploitation thriller, Cheap Thrills.
I never watched New Zealand movie before (not The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogy, of course). However, Housebound, an genre-bending debut from writer-director Gerard Johnstone is a dauntless step to take in this heyday of horror movies. This movie brings a horror to a house but never lets it out; as it embraces the horror with piles of secrets to be unveiled—not in a gentle way, but in all ridiculous ways you can’t imagine.
The main protagonist portrayed by Morgana O’Reilly is not some damsel in an eerie distress; she’s convicted for a robbery and got home detention to her parents’ house where she lives with her mother and stepdad. The thing is, she begins to feel some random act of mystery around the house and she quickly associates it with supernatural things. Then, Housebound carefully follows O’Reilly’s attempt to investigate the house and ridiculously finds tons of twist awaited all along.
Good thing is, Gerard Johnstone knows how to treat his own horror as a mockery to other movies of similar genre and avoid some typical genre-cliche with situation humor (that kinda reminds me to Adam Wingard’s You’re Next) that makes it fresh. It’s funny but never gets easy—it never lets you predict what happen next by giving you some neatly constructed red herrings favored with dark comedy that distract you from the twist.
I never really know that NZ has this kind of inventive horror without Housebound.
Comedy, Horror, Thriller Written & Directed by: Gerard Johnstone Starred by: Morgana O’Reilly, Rima Te Wiata, Glen-Paul Waru Running Time: 107 mins Not Rated Yet
The Guest has a potentially specific-fan-bait combination—Dan Stevens from Downtown Abbey and acclaimed director of You’re Next, Adam Wingard. It has the extravagant shade of Nicholas Winding-Refn’s Drive—with Dan Stevens poses as Ryan Gosling—and all the elements of the 80s action B-movies, specifically homage to John Carpenter’s kind of work. It’s campy, it’s off-beat, it’s classic, and it’s straightforward.
Adam Wingard with his lifetime collaborator, Simon Barrett, works on a completely different light from their previous work in You’re Next; they make it a little darker with shades of sci-fi. The Guest is all about the guest in the Peterson family claiming to be a friend of their late son. The guest (Dan Stevens) comes with all mysteries; but his presence also triggers some mysterious deaths around the Petersons. So, what’s really going on? Adam Wingard keeps it safe with quick action-gore that goes predictable without lessening the genre fun.
The Guest (2014)
Action, Mystery, Thriller Directed by: Adam Wingard Written by: Simon Barrett Starred by: Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe Running Time: 99 mins Rated R for strong violence, language, some drug use and a scene of sexuality
Craig (Pat Healy) loses his job and is gonna be evicted from his house. He goes to a local bar, meets his old friend (Ethan Embry), and gets treated by a wealthy man (David Koechner) with his peculiar wife (Sara Paxton). What comes next is really beyond imaginary, the couple challenges the two friends with some dares in exchange of some amount of money. For the couple, it’s just a fulfillment of their queer sense of humor, but for the two friends, it’s a chance to build a new life and get some cheap thrills.
Cheap Thrills exploits the condition of some poor characters with over and over again; doubles the reward every time and doubles the challenges but gives no sign of giving up. It’s a clever satire to social-economical gap and to the constraint that people will do everything for money. Served in a blatant black comedy that goes bitter as they plot gets thicken off, Cheap Thrills gives real thrills that makes you sick but keeps you amazed. It’s a kind of low-budget horror that might terrorize your mind with the jet-black comedy and yet still gets a cult status for years to come.
Cheap Thrills (2014)
Comedy, Crime, Drama Directed by: E. L. Katz Written by: David Chirchirillo, Trent Haaga Starred by: Pat Healy, Ethan Embry, Sara Paxton, David Koechner Running Time: 88 mins Not Rated Yet