Director Finn Callan Talks His Viral Hit ‘Guest’ And Its Upcoming Sequel [Exclusive Interview]
Back in 2020, we interviewed writer and director Finn Callan about a phenomenal short film called Guest, which premiered that year at FrightFest. Since then, the short has accumulated over eight million views on YouTube in addition to achieving a kind of cult status among horror fans. The titular mysterious has even become an iconic character in their own right. The short film also received praise for how it addressed the serious topic of mental health through a horror perspective, which we applauded in our review.
Callan recently got in touch with Dread Central to let us know that he is developing a sequel to Guest, which will be funded by Chilling, a horror relaxation app. We decided to interview Callan again to find out what he has planned for Guest 2, and you can read our full interview below. And while Guest 2 does not yet have a confirmed release date, we can expect it to arrive on Chilling next year.
DC: What made you want to return to the world of Guest?
FC: Well, at first I didn’t have any interest in making a sequel short film to Guest. Guest 2 existed as a sort of running gag during production on the first film. “Save it for the sequel. Wait until they greenlight the sequel. I’ll see you on Guest 2.” That sort of stuff that we muttered under our breath for a laugh. It didn’t really seem like a serious possibility for me until after seeing the popularity of G1. Short films rarely ever get sequels, so I didn’t even think it was gonna happen but that all changed when I saw how many people wanted more.
And I mean, a lot of people wanted more. I know they did because I read thousands and thousands of comments on YouTube demanding clarity. They wanted answers, they wanted to know more about The Guest. They really, really wanted to see more of this thing so I eventually decided… give the people what they want. I never like closing doors on things completely and I’m happy I didn’t close the door on this. So I began brainstorming where I could possibly take it for a little while and Guest 2 is what popped out. I felt there was still something to be explored and more to elaborate on.
Once I finished the script I showed it to a few people who worked on G1 and the reaction was very positive. I asked Anna if she’d come back to work with me again and reprise her role; she said she would “in a heartbeat”. I was working various jobs to raise money for it, which was very slow. After a while, I felt a bit demoralized thinking “fuck, this’ll take me forever. I’ll never make it at this rate.”
Then one day I got an email from Chilling. They’re a company that made this really cool little app where you can listen to short horror stories narrated by professional voice actors. Think Calm but for the horror crowd. My kind of jam. I got on the phone with them and they explained to me that they were trying to push into streaming with a focus on producing quality horror content. They’d seen a post I made on a Facebook group about getting help to make G2 and wanted to hear more about it.
I started explaining to them what I wanted G2 to be like and, almost immediately, they said yes. I was like “guys, you haven’t even read the script yet! Are you sure?” Dane Petrali and Christopher Graham (the co-founders of Chilling) told me they had every confidence in the film after my pitch. So yeah, Chilling is funding it. It’s happening. It’s actually happening. Guest 2 is on its way. It’ll appear on their app first once it’s been updated to feature video streaming content. It’ll be up there, before I put it anywhere else. They’re putting Guest on there as well. I’m also gonna do a director’s commentary track exclusively for Guest 2 and Guest on the app as well so that’s a plus. I had to quit my day job to keep up with production but yeah, so far all is well. Hectic, but well.
DC: I know you are still in the early stages of development, but can you tell us a little about what we can expect from Guest 2?
FC: Well, I can’t reveal a lot about the plot obviously but there are a few things I can tell you for certain. From the looks of things, Guest 2 will be at least double the length of Guest 1. It’s much bigger in terms of scale and it’s quite a different film from the first. There’s a lot more dialogue and character focus than there was in the second one. We see a new cast of characters who find themselves involved with The Guest and its frighteningly ominous powers.
I knew that I couldn’t just make G1 again. Doing “frightened woman runs away from freaky monster” isn’t very interesting to do again. I don’t wanna bore people at all, that’s not my goal. I want to give people an improvement on the first and give them a taste of something different. A good sequel will jump off from the original while a bad sequel wallows in it.
The Guest is back, of course. I knew fairly early on that the only character from the first film worth expanding on was The Guest itself. So we do see her in a very different light in this film. She appears in the film very rarely but when she does you’ll notice. It’ll elaborate a little more on the myth of her and begin to deconstruct what she actually is. It’s very difficult to go into it without spoiling things but I promise you’ll come away from it a bit more clued in with what the hell is going on.
After they said yes to funding the film, Chilling gave me complete creative freedom to do whatever the hell I wanted. So this is where her story is going. No committee telling me what to do, this is undiluted, pure, exactly where I wanna take things and nobody is going to stop me.
DC: Will Anna Fraser be returning as the Guest? And can you talk about the supporting cast?
FC: Yep! She’s back as The Guest and I’m so glad she’s returning. As I said, she said yes straight away and I’m so happy that we’re gonna work together again. There’s no way I would get anybody else to play The Guest. No way in hell. There wouldn’t even be that many people who could withstand the makeup process to replace her. I’d imagine anyone else would buckle under the claustrophobia, the feeling of being buried alive. But not her.
We’ve talked for hours and hours about The Guest. She’s sort of my confidant on the story and the lore behind the character. We both had ideas about where we want The Guest to go and both our minds align on where things are going. It’s also not just Anna who’s making a comeback. Jessica Munna is returning as well! She’s a gem, so glad I’m working with her again too. We’re going to be shedding some light on the character she played in G1 and expand on things just a little bit.
The supporting cast, the newcomers who will appear in Guest 2, are an aspect of the film I’m really excited about. I can confirm that Simon Bigg and Maayan Amiran have been cast in the film, both playing new characters we haven’t seen before. Simon is playing ‘Ethan’ and Maayan is playing ‘Mia.’ Both of whom are very interesting, very troubled individuals who will both encounter The Guest. You’ll see how they fit into the narrative once the film comes out.
Both Maayan and Simon are very talented and tested very well for the characters so I have a lot of confidence in them both. I love finding new and interesting people to work with and somehow I managed to discover both of them, so I couldn’t be happier really that I chose them to play my characters. We’ve yet to cast the lead for G2, but that should happen fairly soon.
Quite a lot of the crew who made Guest are coming back to work on Guest 2 as well. Fyodor Houtheusen is returning as the cinematographer and Ivan Veselov as the producer. Ivan did so well organizing and producing everything and Fyo did such an amazing job shooting G1 with his crew. I honestly don’t trust anyone else to shoot G2; the dude paints. We also have Simon Petersson who’s signed on to be the composer for the film as well. G2 will have a great deal more music than G1 did and I’ve spoken at length with Simon about how we’re going to approach the music. I’ve wanted to work with him for a while so it’s a breath of relief. “Thank fuck. It’s finally happening.”
DC: How does it feel to have created a now-iconic horror character? And while the character’s backstory is left intentionally vague, what does The Guest mean to you?
FC: It’s a little bit overwhelming, to be honest. After I put Guest on YouTube I didn’t think anybody would ever see it. And when I saw the number of views ticking over slowly from 10k over to 50k and then 100k, I was like “Oh! Shit. Something’s happening.” And then after a while, Anna messaged me and was like “dude we’re about to hit 1 million views.” We had a little Skype party for when it happened. We celebrated and laughed about it, everyone was overjoyed. I mean, I didn’t expect it to get another million… it did. And it just kept climbing and climbing.
Seeing it get just shy of 10 million now is just surreal. Seeing so many YouTubers “react” to it, namely CoryxKenshin and Jacksepticeye, people I’ve been watching and known about for years was strange. But it made me smile. Not only that but the amount of fan art of The Guest has taken me aback slightly. People have made dolls, timelapses of paintings, drawings, masks, 3D renders. People have really fallen in love with her and it’s a weird feeling knowing that it’s my creation they’re making fan art of.
This is a character that doesn’t talk, hardly moves, and does very little on camera. Yet people sympathized with it and drew it in their own spare time. Developing a sequel will inevitably come with the baggage of fan expectations, but I’m trying not to think about it too much. I’m immensely grateful for people who love the character and the film, because without them, Guest 2 would never have seen the light of day.
In terms of The Guest, she means lots of things to me, but the most important thing is that she’s grown on me. Back when she was something from my nightmares I wanted to be rid of her, I just wanted her to leave me alone. But now, knowing that I made good on a promise I made to her one night when I said “I’m making a movie about you and showing you to the world,” I have a newfound appreciation for her. I think everyone else who sees Guest 2 will probably see that as well once it comes out.
One thing that made me really nervous about doing a sequel to Guest was replicating the prosthetic makeup to make The Guest a reality. She’s the central piece of the movie. If The Guest doesn’t work, then there is no film. Fran Giacovelli (who did the special effects for G1) isn’t available to work on G2 because of scheduling conflicts which is a bit heartbreaking, because he and I designed The Guest together and worked on it for so long. He’s also overwhelmed by how much Guest has exploded in popularity. I’m glad it’s not just me.
The search was arduous for a replacement prosthetics artist but I found somebody who I have every confidence can deliver. Her name is Georgia Nicole Paxton. Her work is good, very very good. I saw what she’d done previously, nearly threw up, thinking “yep, this is the right woman for the job.” We’ve been working together with Anna for the past month or so planning how we’re going to birth The Guest for the second time. It’s still all practical makeup. No CGI at all. I can’t wait for everyone to see what she’s been working on.
DC: Guest addressed the serious topic of mental health from a horror perspective, so can we expect Guest 2 to tackle similarly important themes?
FC: Yes. You definitely can expect that. Guest 2 is interwoven with those themes, just like the first film. But G2 is going to explore them a lot more closely. I want to delve deeper into the characters than I did in the first film and delve deeper into The Guest as well. Depression, self-harm, and suicide are important topics that films, especially horror films, very rarely get right and more often than not end up being exploitative. I don’t want to insult anyone going through these things and want to make sure that I do them justice properly. If you’ve ever been through any of them you know how nasty they are, and the film isn’t going to tone them down or shy away.
Guest 2 is going to have a very raw and unsanitized portrayal of mental health topics like these. It’s going to display them for the unpleasant, ugly, life-ruining things that they really are. They’re themes very close to my heart and to the people working on the film. I already asked one of the actors “you’d tell me if I was writing complete ass, right?” and she responded with “oh yeah, you’d be the first to know.”