The Guest (2014)


I have a total weak-spot for genre films that explore characters and their motivations through the use of imagery, telling stares, and 80’s soundtracks. I also completely love a film that can effectively provide many genres, without getting mixed up in the bunch. Immediately, comparisons to Drive will emerge after people see this film, but there are also aspects of Terminator and Halloween, as the director and writer explained in an interview. This is a film that dares to be something new and it does just that. Trust me when I say that you’ll want to see this film many more times, as well as purchase the soundtrack as soon as the film ends. This is what going to the movies is all about. The complete package.

David has arrived.

David has arrived.

After traveling long and far, a man named David (Dan Stevens) arrives at the Peterson household, claiming that he served in the military alongside their son/brother. The perfect gentleman, David introduces himself to mother Laura (Sheila Kelley) and begins to tell her all about her son and how much he loved her. Her son’s last wish was for David to go check on his family, so he left right after getting out of the military and came to do just that. He sends messages of to Laura’s son, Luke (Brendan Meyer), and offers a watchful eye over her daughter Anna (Maika Monroe). When Laura’s husband Spencer (Leland Orser) comes home, the two share a beer and David explains his story again.

As David is invited into the Peterson’s home and lives, he adapts accordingly and provides exactly what each family member needs. He’s the perfect guardian, listener, storyteller, and problem-solver, almost to the point of suspicion. Everyone seems to love him, but Anna is a bit unsure of this “perfect” man. After David starts “solving” the families problems, Anna grows more cautious around this stranger and begins to do a little bit of digging. Some mysterious things happen after David’s arrival and that only reinforces the question: where did this man come from and who is he really?

Anna has some reservations about David.

Anna has some reservations about David.

The Guest is easily one of the most enjoyable films that I have seen this year, as its 80’s genre throwback makes a lasting impression and its lead provides one of the year’s best performances. This film is an accumulation of many different genres and they all blend together so easily, making this film all the more fun and interesting. While at times thrilling, this film also manages to work in a lot of comedy that only made my adoration of this film grow. Not only was I thoroughly impressed by this film, but I also wasn’t surprised that it would be great, given all the talent that makes up this film.

The utmost of credit is do to Director/Editor Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett, as their partnership is one that clearly works well. The two are most notable for last year’s hilarious and unique horror film, You’re Next. The pair have an eye for an older style of horror that makes use of cliches and filming techniques to evoke a sense of comfort, hilarity, and fright in their audiences and it’s obvious that they have a fun time doing so. For all the throwbacks in their films, the two show an impressive ability with how they tell their stories, what to focus on, and how we see their characters try to adapt to their off-kilter world.

David isn't entirely honest with his motivations.

David isn’t entirely honest with his motivations.

Dan Stevens is the standout star in the cast, as this performance will put him on the map and also make him the next big heartthrob. He effectively uses is blue eyes, sculpted body, and long stares to gain the affection of any person he meets, as well as the audience who believes him to be a kind young gentleman. His diction is flawless, he’s the perfect human being, and he makes it really difficult not to be cautious about his back-story. He’s subtly amusing, as he never makes big jokes, but his side-commentary and general approach to certain situations will have you laughing out loud at their unusual nature. Stevens is also one of the most intimidating leading men of late, as his superior size and inescapable glare make him quite frightening. He’s only truly terrifying when he’s fighting others, but it’s not really fair to call it a fight when he’s clearly out-performing everyone else.

One of the best things about this already extraordinary movie, is the ominous score that’s always playing in the background. It’s got this 80’s-synth vibe to it, which works perfectly when we are starting to learn more about Stevens’ character. I found that the soundtrack was just another layer of expression, in terms of storytelling and mood, and I love when filmmakers can properly utilize music in their films. In many cases, I likened the soundtrack of this film to that of Drive‘s, because they are both fairly similar and do a lot to progress the story, even if no words are being said. Paired with lingering shots of Stevens, landscapes, and the surrounding characters reactions, the score elevates this film to an even higher level.

What's going on here?

What’s going on here?

The supporting cast in this film all do a marvelous job of embodying the different reactions people would have to a stranger coming to their home. Sheila Kelley’s grieving mother finds solace when David speaks of her son’s love for her. Leland Orser’s father finds a drinking companion and someone to vent to when David sticks around. Brendan Meyers’ Luke finds a buddy that’s willing to stick up for him. Maika Monroe finds an oddly attractive and caring man within David, though she has her suspicions. Each character has their reservations, but they all play their parts so well and it helps that Stevens does his job superbly too. Though he’s not in the film all that long, Lance Reddick adds some fun and concern to the film and uses his time wisely.

The Guest left me in such a great mood afterwards and I couldn’t wait to jot down my thoughts, as to why I greatly enjoyed this uniquely fun and frightening film. The combination of horror and comedy is not an easy one, but Wingard and Barrett make it look so effortless, as they toy with the audiences emotions, as well as their characters. Dan Stevens is the man, as he completely commands this film and adds an incredible performance to his resume. He is the perfect balance of cool and menacing, which is perfect for a film that finds itself shifting genres and keeping everyone on their toes. If you even remotely enjoyed You’re Next, you’re in for a pleasant treat with this one, as I dare say it’s even better than that.

The Guest Trailer

4.5 STARS!!!

4.5 / 5 stars     

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