The Guest

International Premiere | In Competition | White Mulberry Award Candidate

 

Guest stars:
YEON Je-gwang, director
LEE Ju-seung, actor
JEONG Su-kyo, actor

 

Hidden deep in the woods is Montmartre Motel, likely only frequented by lowlifes looking to hire prostitutes or to rendezvous with secret lovers. Its bleak facade is far from something one would choose to lodge as their top priority. Min-cheol is a young man who works at this run-down motel, and he’s discernably miserable. Being burdened with all the cleaning is one, but what makes him really unhappy is that his debt forces him to reluctantly take on the side job of filming illegal sex videos of the guests with his colleague Young-gyu. On an especially rainy night, a man shows up at the motel with a drunk woman on his back. In anticipation of securing provocative footage, Min-cheol hands the man the key to room number 301. While watching the couple on camera, Min-cheol and Young-gyu witness a murder about to happen, and they must decide between keeping their illicit job under the carpet or reporting the grave crime. Neither option is ideal, as one will make them commit a felony while notifying the authorities will get their illegal business exposed, and further, get their lives threatened by the loan sharks hovering over them day and night.

Slasher films are rare coming from South Korea, as the local taste calls for complex plot-driven stories centered around revenge or socio-political commentary. This is probably one major reason behind the ongoing production of thrillers in the region.

The Guest also doesn’t stray away from building a strong foundation for the story’s verisimilitude, but it’s presumably the most true to the slasher genre with just 77 minutes of condensed blood and violence while avoiding going into unnecessary depths of its substories. The fact that it doesn’t shy away from getting to the point acts in favor of the film’s pace. Perfectly rhythmed, The Guest presents back-to-back chases and actions, each more cruel and intense than the previous, with hardly any breaks for breathers. This bold choice in pacing is impressive coming from a debut feature filmmaker, and it heightens the tension and the viewing experience. Accompanied by haunting music and sound design, it successfully draws out scares and leaves us on the edge of our seats.

Its frank focus on scares and violence is appreciated, but that doesn’t mean The Guest lacks layers. Its references to classic films like Rear Window (1954) and The Shining (1980) are the more apparent ones. The Guest’s homage to The Shining comes from its main setting. In addition to using a single lodging like The Shining, director Yeon takes a shot at recreating the famous axe-in-door scene that comes out equally chilling. At the same time, the theme of voyeurism and the unexpected witness of a murder resembles that of Rear Window. While Hitchcock comments on human nature’s desire to observe, The Guest takes a more contemporary and pessimistic approach. Initially an outsider and a voyeur, Min-cheol voluntarily gets himself involved in action and falls into danger. He might look like a victim on the surface, but ironically, he is also an assailant. In a similar aspect, there is an increasing number of celebrity victimizations happening in Korea where voyeurs become assailants with their malicious comments, sometimes leading to tragic endings. As seen with Min-cheol, the connection between voyeurism and victimization is inevitable, and no one can blame the damsel in distress when she decides to leave the protagonist behind.

After countless thrilling moments and sweaty palms, the bleak and sudden ending catches us off-guard like a slap in the face. It seems to remind us that we too have been voyeurs.

June Kim
Film director: YEON Je-gwang
Year: 2023
Running time: 77'
Country: South Korea
30/04 - 11:30 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
30-04-2024 23:30 01-05-2024 0:47Europe/Rome The Guest Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine cec@cecudine.org

Photogallery