BY IFE OLUJUYIGBE
Making a thriller in Nollywood is a risky affair on many levels. But it is not uncommon. Usually, a thriller is expected to be predictable. Bad guy appears, struts his stuff, kills people for every silly reason, says irrational bunkum, and generally does what bad guys do. Then, in the end, depending on the mood of the filmmaker, the bad guy dies or wins. This is how it works, so we go to the cinema knowing what to expect.
And this is what we get in this 2017 romantic thriller, The Guest, which tells the story of a couple who renders help to their friend Nikki, who is a deportee from the United Kingdom. We are told distractedly that they were all schoolmates at some point, the husband, Billy, being Nikki’s one-time boyfriend. The couple decides she can stay with them for as long as she needs to, and practically opens up the doors to their home to her to do as she pleases. Lola, the wife, even offers her a job to man a branch of her new makeup line in Abuja, but Nikki does not plan on getting handouts. Unfortunately, the man doesn’t turn down her advances when they come and is in too deep before he realises it isn’t just a silly affair. Nikki wants it all, and she would kill again and again for it.
The predictable storyline would still have been entertaining if the resolution had been better, but it winds up a mess as the final scene goes on for what would seem like years, round and round in circles, looking for a good place to terminate. The line where the brutal enemy is suddenly challenged to a fight by the protagonist and loses common sense, drops the gun (or knife or whatever weapon) and resorts to a hand fight is cliché and we almost always know how that ends. I ask myself, who is the antagonist trying to impress really by the mortal combat? His ego? A band of imaginary onlookers and cheerleaders? In The Guest, it isn’t clear who it is for Nikki. All we see is that, for some weird reason, her final moments are weak and all her bravado coming with fire and steam in the beginning suddenly fizzles out.
There really isn’t much of an issue with a common story if it is properly executed; suspense isn’t the only thing that makes a movie work. In The Guest, however, even the acting isn’t strong. Half the time, we strain to hear what Femi Jacobs says, heck, we strain to hear what everyone says. The mouth movements and the sounds that come out of it seem to be in a long distance relationship. Somkele Idhalama, who over the last few months has had an impressive run, gives a just-there performance as Lola, and while Rita Dominic comes with a characteristic fierceness, her character’s malevolence cannot hold up the falling edges of this film.
Directed by Christian Olayinka and written and produced by Foluke Olaniyi, The Guest doesn’t offer much. It tries to, but stumbles on its holes and lacklustre performances and ultimately falls hard on its face. The picture is dark and depressing, the sound is bad, and the writing is haphazard. It’s interesting that there’s a Hollywood dark thriller with an identical title. Some extra time and thought would have given it a more original title and storyline.