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 / 5)