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Review: Megan Freels Johnston’s “Dear Guest”

Dear Guest is currently available on Vimeo, YouTube and Amazon. But in a time when short films accumulate dozens of new additions a day, why should you devote 11 minutes of your time to this one? For starters, it’s written, directed and produced by Megan Freels Johnston – an amazing film-maker who crushed it with her feature film The Ice Cream Truck. Then, you need to consider the fact that Dear Guest closely mirrors classic titles that pre-date The Golden Age of Horror (70’s to late 90’s). The way the story unfolds, the way the suspense builds, the way it relies on everything other than cheap horror troupes to achieve its goals, and that eerie ending shot. Look at Me Films and Fun Size Horror brought early horror to life in Dear Guest, which was produced by Michael May and Bill Whirity. There’s no blood. No jump scares. No nudity. It’s old school, nostalgic terror that hasn’t existed much since haunted house Hammer flicks.

Dear Guest finds cinematography by Steven Tringali and editing by Eric Potter. Perhaps my only complaint here, which I’m finding with a lot of titles lately, is behind-the-scenes crews need to find the balance between being picture perfect and building atmosphere. It isn’t fitting for everything to be clear, bright and perky – as is the case in Dear Guest, which takes place in a big mansion. I want grit. I want texture. I want a layer of uncertainty that can only be finalized by style behind-the-camera. Looking like a movie that could air on Lifetime or A&E or MTV isn’t doing justice to the mini-world you’re trying to create. I mean, by independent, short-film standards Megan Freels Johnston’s latest endevour looks like a million bucks, but some level of uncertainty was lost in the process. A double-edged sword, for sure.

Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism) and Noureen DuWolf (“Good Girls”) star in Dear Guest as two lesbians who move into a house, only to find themselves at the hands of a madman who works in rhymes and riddles. I loved the way that the mystery-man rhymed all his notes, and I loved the way these two actresses reacted to them even more.

Dear Guest is a Twilight Zone inspired trip down memory line that feels like Jumanji was taken over by a serial killer. Final Score: 8 out of 10.

Check it out below.

Written by Michael Therkelsen

(Senior Editor)