One of my favourite films of last year was Adam Wingard’s genre-hopping slasher THE GUEST. The film features Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens as David, an ex-soldier who turns up on the doorstep of a family, claiming to have been good friends with their late son. He ultimately is invited into the family, becoming a surrogate brother and son to them, but is he really who he says he is?
I spoke to Zak Brilliant at Icon Film Distribution, who also released Drive, about how to market the bad guy from Downton Abbey.
We also have a competition to win a copy of the film on Bluray – find out more here.
Where did you first see / hear of THE GUEST? What were the key things that influenced you to release it?
We first saw it in Sundance and had been tracking for some time. We released director Adam Wingard’s last feature, YOU’RE NEXT, in the UK and we were happy with its performance.
What was the distribution strategy for the film? Was it influenced by YOU’RE NEXT? Or even Downton Abbey?
Early on we courted the genre press to get them on board before going to wider media. Key to this strategy was launching the film in FRIGHTFEST in mid-august. Downton Abbey fans didn’t necessarily cross our audience profile for THE GUEST but we did reach them ‘below the line’ using targeted PR.
DRIVE (also released by ICON) was such a massive hit – and there are some similarities in style and story with THE GUEST – how did that affect your approach to marketing the film?
We had the benefit of releasing DRIVE in the UK so were very aware of how that campaign broke out. THE GUEST does have some similarities but ultimately was more challenging. The lead was a tv star known for completely different kinds of work, he was an ‘anti-hero’ and the film was multi genre, flipping from horror and thriller to action and comedy. Key to our marketing was pushing Dan Stevens as a new action star and qualifying the film as extremely entertaining.
The soundtrack is easily one of the best of the last year – considering its old school 80s feel, do you know are there any any plans to release it on vinyl?
Not as yet.
In some ways i feel this is a film that maybe a lot of people missed out on, and to that extent im really excited about the blu ray release – what extras will people be treated to?
There’s a commentary with Adam Winguard and Simon Barrett, theatrical trailer plus 7 deleted scenes with optional commentary.
Dan Stevens is a fantastic anti-hero – on the one hand we are cheering him on, and then also rooting against him. Would it be right to say people have a lot of affection for him as ‘the bad guy’?
From the reactions that we’ve heard, a lot of people are cheering him on right to the bitter end. Even if they’re not on his side in the maze, they’re still happy when he appears in the fireman’s suit at the end (spoiler alert). The unexpected nature of him taking the role in the first place probably adds to people’s affection for him – they just can’t believe this is the same guy as from downton. Hopefully as he carries on being in more ‘bad guy’ roles, or even roles that just aren’t as squeaky clean as downton, people will start revisiting the guest as the start of his wider career.