The Guest, the new action thriller from You’re Next director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, opened in limited release to a healthy box office and strong reviews this weekend. The film has been described as “Halloween meets The Terminator” for good reason, yet The Guest still feels like a completely unique experience. Adding to its style is a soundtrack filled with ’80s goth electronica. While speaking with director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett about the film, I asked them about the soundtrack, and Wingard revealed why movie soundtracks have always been really important to him and where the inspiration for that particular goth vibe came from.
Though I suspected the old school soundtrack was a nod to the iconic films that inspired him from decades ago, Wingard explained that it had more to do with the actual characters than anything:
“This was another one of the few points that I encouraged Simon to put in the script–I really wanted the teenagers in the town to have sort of a goth stylization to them because you know, growing up in Alabama, you think of Alabama as a bunch of people wearing flannel and camouflage and talking about hunting and all that kind of crap, you know? But just like everywhere else, mainly because of the internet, I think, all pop culture is accessible now. I remember there were some pot dealers out in Anniston, Alabama that I used to hang out with occasionally and they were gothed out like crazy, and whenever I would go over there and hang out with them sometimes they’d be playing all this goth music from the ’80s that I’d never heard. Stuff like Death In June and things of that nature. So while Simon was writing, I was already thinking about my stylization, and I knew that I wanted this type of music in the film and it was important that Simon make that a part of the story so that it’s not just the director randomly picking out his favorite songs and forcing them in the film.”
Wingard continued to elaborate on the mostly diegetic soundtrack. “I also knew that I wanted a score in the film and songs in the movie playing from a source that the characters can hear, so that also meant that the music had to reflect the characters personalities and it would be the type of music they’d be listening to. I knew I wanted to keep in that ’80s realm. Initially, I was thinking more ’80s goth rock stuff like Death In June but as we made the picture, I realized the movie was going in a more poppy direction [becoming] less dark as the movie developed and that kind of evolved more into 80s goth electronica as opposed to straight up ’80s goth rock. The electronic sound just worked with the look of the movie more, mainly because I think a lot of current electronic music is like a throwback to the ’80s–a lot of stuff is being influenced by that. So what I ended up doing is compiling all these different 80s songs and finding modern songs that had an ’80s feel and trying to find the perfect combination of those two where you couldn’t really tell what was the old school stuff and the new stuff because they work well together.”
Did Wingard worry that due to ownership and legal issues he would be able to use those tracks in the first place? “I was so nervous going into this because I had no idea how much this stuff would cost because there’s almost like 20 tracks of music. It it’s the biggest soundtrack we’ve ever done. Growing up, the way I found music was like through the Mortal Kombat soundtrack and The Matrix and stuff and so I’ve always been a big proponent of soundtracks for movies. We have a lot of great artists like D.A.F. which is a German band that put out a lot of stuff in the early 80s. I’m honestly surprised no ones used them in movies before. Clan of Xymox, Front 242, and more modern bands like Survive–there’s just a ton of stuff.”
The Guest, directed by Adam Wingard, written by Simon Barrett and starring Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley and Leland Orser, is in theaters now.