UK Release Date: 5th September 2014
Runtime: 100 minutes
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Starring: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick
Synopsis: A grieving family are befriended by a mysterious, but charming, house guest who claims to have been a friend of their deceased soldier son.
With his terrific slasher movie You’re Next, young director Adam Wingard made an enormous and immediate impact as a genre filmmaker. His second major feature, The Guest, is an 80s-inflected psychological thriller that continues to portray Wingard as a talent to watch.
David (Dan Stevens) arrives unannounced at the home of Laura (Sheila Kelley) and Spencer Peterson (Leland Orser), claiming to have served alongside their deceased son. He soon wins over the couple’s son Luke (Brendan Meyer), but when daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) begins to take issue with David’s backstory, questions start to arise about the house guest.
From the start, The Guest wears its influences on its sleeve. Wingard’s You’re Next was heavily inspired by 1980s horror cinema and The Guest is no different. From its synth-infused soundtrack to something as minute as its credits font, the film is evidently inspired by the filmmakers of the period, giving it a pleasing feel of nostalgia. The Halloween-themed climax, especially, is straight from the John Carpenter playbook.
| "Are you sure you’re comfortable with me staying here?"
Dan Stevens, previously best known for hoity-toity TV drama Downton Abbey, is excellent in the title role. He is in perfect control of the balance between charm and menace that fluctuates in his character as the film progresses. By the time that his true nature remains clear, David has done a pretty good job of charming the audience as much as the Peterson family.
The supporting cast of The Guest also deserve credit, with Maika Monroe especially strong as the inquisitive youngster who suspects David from the start. She has to shoulder a lot of the film’s heavy lifting in the third act and does a really good job of it.
Whilst The Guest is nominally a thriller, it is full of horror references and plays as a loving genre homage. The thrills are slow to build, but electric when they pay off and the finale is a wonderfully gruesome climax that recalls all of the best aspects of classic horror.
| "I’m a soldier, man. I like guns."
If there is a flaw with the film, it’s that it shoves aside much of the actual explanation of David’s past in favour of the final bloodbath. However, given the balls-out madness of the film’s final stages, exposition would likely only have bogged the film down unnecessarily. It works perfectly as a lean, mean thrill ride.
The filmmaking partnership of director Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett continues to play dividends as the two men have produced another excellent genre movie. When positioned alongside Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive, this could form a brilliant double bill.
Pop or Poop?
Dan Stevens stakes his claim to being the next big genre movie star with a masterful performance in The Guest. His nuanced take on David hammers home his charm, whilst maintaining a sinister feel just below the surface.
Director Adam Wingard steals lovingly from a handful of 1980s genre classics to produce a beautifully retro thriller. It’s tense, grisly and downright gripping from start to finish.
Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments section.