[Review] Dear Guest: Classic Elements and Gripping Performances Drive Hitchcockian Thriller Short

Maria (Ashley Bell of The Last Exorcism and Carnage Park, and who was absolutely outstanding in Psychopaths) just wants to have a relaxing vacation in an elegant Airbnb-style rental with her work-obsessed girlfriend Jules (Noreen DeWulf). What the couple winds up with instead is a terrifying game ruled over by their unseen, sadistic host in the highly effective short chiller Dear Guest.

After defusing a conversation before it turns into an argument, Jules goes into another room to unpack while Maria checks out a different space — and then Jules goes missing. White note cards with menacing clues written inside begin to appear, leading Maria to find Jules in a deadly predicament . . . and the games are just beginning.

Writer/director Megan Freels Johnston (Rebound; The Ice Cream Truck) has crafted a letter-perfect suspenser set in the present day but with elements of Hitchcock, The Twilight Zone, and the eeriest of 1970s movie-of-the week television films, the latter due in part to Jacob Yoffee’s (who worked with Johnston on her two aforementioned features, as well as on All I Need and Children of the Corn: Genesis) exciting throwback score. Johnston provides plenty of character backstory right away so that viewers are immediately invested in the two protagonists, and Bell and DeWulf deliver big time with superb performances that are reason enough to highly recommend this short. The production values are marvelous, and Johnston ratchets up the suspense masterfully.

Dear Guest lays enough groundwork to warrant a feature-length treatment, and the final shot is unnerving and just left me wanting more, in the best way possible. Watch for this one as it makes its way around the film festival circuit.

4 out of 5 stars (4 / 5)

Joseph Perry
Joseph Perry fell in love with horror films as a preschooler when he first saw the Gill-Man swim across the TV screen in "The Creature from The Black Lagoon" and Mothra battle Godzilla in "Godzilla Vs. The Thing.” His education in fright fare continued with TV series such as "The Twilight Zone" and "Outer Limits," along with legendary northern California horror host Bob Wilkins’ "Creature Features." His love for silver age and golden age comic books, including horror titles from Gold Key, Dell, and Marvel started around age 5.

He is a contributing writer for the "Phantom of the Movies VideoScope" and “Drive-In Asylum” print magazines and the websites Horror Fuel, Diabolique Magazine, The Scariest Things, B&S About Movies, and When It Was Cool. He is a co-host of the "Uphill Both Ways" pop culture nostalgia podcast and also writes for its website. Joseph occasionally proudly co-writes articles with his son Cohen Perry, who is a film critic in his own right.

A former northern Californian and Oregonian, Joseph has been teaching, writing, and living in South Korea since 2008.