The Guest (2014) Review
Writer: Simon Barrett
Certificate: 15 Running Time: 1hr 39 Mins
Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Leland Orser, Sheila Kelley, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick
Plot: A soldier (David) turns up at the home of the Peterson family claiming to be a friend of their son, Caleb, who has just died in combat. When accidents begin occurring around town, Anna (Maika) suspects that David is hiding his true identity
Adam Wingard’s pulsating throwback thriller swoons into town and captures the beating heart of the genre fan. The Guest evokes a gleeful sense of nostalgia by unashamedly drawing inspiration from John Carpenter and seminal sci-fi classics such as The Terminator. With a typically witty script by Simon Barrett underpinning this deliriously entertaining and atmospheric thriller; it’s the Gosling-esque turn from Brit, Dan Stevens, as the mysterious guest that will undoubtedly propel the Downton Abbey star into one of Hollywood’s leading men. Stevens is daringly charismatic and exudes the badass demeanor which borders on iconic. Fledgling scream queen and star of David Robert Mitchell’s upcoming festival sensation It Follows (2014), Maika Monroe, continues her exciting fledgling career as Anna, the skeptical daughter who doubts the credibility of the stranger at the door.
The Guest is at its finest when there is a heightened sense of mystery around the true identity of ‘the friend of the family’. Was he really a military friend of the deceased Caleb? Is there a sinister agenda at play behind his impromptu stay at the Parson household? It’s these questions which fuel the far more intriguing opening half of the film and shroud the truth in a dense musk of secrecy. It’s the vulnerability of the parents that David preys upon and enables him to cement his role as the authoritative influence in the Parson family. He is rarely questioned and welcomed with open arms to fill the void left by the unexpected death of Caleb. He is the empowering force behind the son Luke(Brendan Meyer), regaining his self esteem and retaliating in the face of being bullied at school. It’s the bar room scene where we witness David’s hands on approach to resolving conflict in hilarious yet brutal circumstances.
It’s that ability to cloak violence in a humorous overcoat that has stood Wingard and Barrett in such good stead in earlier works such as You’re Next (2013).The Guest is no different; flashes of rage are often nuanced with jet black comedy that serves to differentiate the tonality from the norm. There has clearly been a conscious decision made to tone down the graphic bloodshed to ensure The Guest appeals to mainstream audiences. The visceral quality of You’re Next and V/H/S is lost to a certain extent but instead it is replaced with a superb climactic maze pursuit that is backed by a pulsating retro synth score. It’s this brilliance that outweighs the questionable, far fetched nature and the role of the military personnel.
The Guest doesn’t outstay his welcome and will leave you inviting him back for more. Premiering in the UK at Film4 Frightfest this year to universal acclaim, Wingard and Barrett have taken things up a notch and cemented their status as the Batman and Robin of genre cinema. Although it winks and high fives an array of sci-fi/horror classics; Wingard quite remarkably creates a work that has its own charming identity.