Dec 1, 2023
Jennifer English, Natasha Biggs, Simon Bigg
In the sequel to 2020’s Guest, Finn Callan’s saucepan-eyed unwanted home intruder returns to torment another set of victims. Guest 2 builds on the elements of its predecessor to deliver and all-round superior short film that utilises horror to explore emotional and viscerally real territory.
Overworked and over-stressed Jill (Jennifer English) lives with her brother Ethan (Simon Bigg). Ethan’s reluctance to help in their home’s upkeep is a source of frustration, but when Jill steps in to fill in for Ethan at a support group, she discovers there’s more to her brother than she understood. At the centre she meets Mia (Natasha Biggs), and the pair strike up a close relationship. But in the darkness, the Guest (Anna Fraser) contemplates their next victim – and Jill’s world looks to be at the centre of their search.
Guest 2 is engrossing and intriguing as much because of what it doesn’t say and doesn’t show as because of what it does. Subterfuge is clearly an ally Finn Callan enjoys deploying – as so much of the film can be left down to interpretation, anticipation and trepidation. Ethan’s lack of response will immediately trigger suspicion in even novice horror fans, but the causes as to why are slowly and enticingly unravelled as the story develops until viewers are clamouring to discover his fate. Similarly, the exact nature of the demons (both metaphorical and literal in this case) are left to the audience’s interpretation. The support groups’ purpose is left somewhat ambiguous (though clearly hinted to be related to alcohol) and whether Ethan and Jill’s own struggles are connected is similarly left to interpretation. What is clear is that the Guest’s draw to those battling something is far from coincidental.
Anna Fraser’s titular demonic being is a disturbing spectre. The utter creepiness of the character’s design makes even its static glaring terrifying, and even with a restrained representation of the being’s power the Guest has a monstrous and defeating presence. Much scarier for its haunting, draining and seemingly ever-present shadow over its victims, it is clear that the Guest can be seen as a stand-in for a manner of different afflictions.
Jennifer English shines in the lead role of Jill, totally convincing in her portrayal of a woman stretched to her limits. Fixated on whatever her next task may be, it is only when she attends the support group her brother usually hosts that she realises there is depth to the world around her. English’s awkward chemistry with Natasha Biggs’ distressed Mia adds a charming and unexpected device to the plot that makes the overall tragedy of the film hit that much harder. As well-developed character arcs go, Jill’s is a brilliant and contained one.
The film is not without its flaws – Jill’s unquestioning willingness to step in in Ethan’s place without even knowing what ‘job’ he has, without even speaking to her brother face-to-face, never really convinces even with the excellent establishing of their dynamic and feels overly convenient. More time would also have been nice with Ethan himself – Simon Bigg shines in his limited screen time in what is one of the film’s most emotional and important moments. But this moment would have benefitted from just a little more background.
However, Guest 2 is an undoubted success and a great example of taking a concept with potential and building on it for a sequel that surpasses its original instalment. It is clear Callan enjoys the character of The Guest, and given the quality of this second chapter, the teaser for further instalments at this film’s end is welcome one.