Title: The Guest
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Leland Orser, Sheila Kelley, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick
Plot: The Peterson’s are still struggling to deal with the loss of their eldest son Caleb, who was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan. However when David (Stevens), a soldier who claims to have served with Caleb turns up unexpectedly on their doorstep, he initially appears to help provide them with closure, while they remain unaware that he hides more than a few dark secrets.
Review: Here we have one of those films which for one reason or another exploded into the attention of the blogging / cult cinema fan collective so that for a period it seemed that all everyone was talking about this film, so much so it seemed that I couldn’t log onto my Facebook without seeing at least one post about it. At the same time it has also become an incredible fun film to come up with analogies for as D.J. from “Simplistic Reviews” described it as “Halloween if Michael Myers was Jason Bourne”, while Greg of the “DebatablePodcast” gave me the equally great “Rambo: First Blood, if Rambo was a C.K. model”. As for myself though I saw this film more as “Terminator as directed by John Carpenter”.
Seemingly coming out of nowhere this a film which manages to be fiercely original while at the same time retro throwback to the John Carpenter movies of the 80’s which hits you right from the title card and synth heavy soundtrack as here director Adam Wingard proves that his previous film and standout Mumblegore entry “Your're Next” wasn’t a fluke while at the same time clearly not wanting to try something different rather than try an duplicate his previous film.
Starting off as a little bit of a slow burn as David randomly shows up on the doorstep of the Peterson’s, he is polite and well spoken, while sympathetic to the loss of their son, who while claiming to know him doesn’t seem to have any emotional attachment to the Peterson’s lost son. Despite perhaps seemingly a little off the mother Laura (Kelley) invites him to stay with the family, hoping it seems that it will help to heal some of the wounds left by her son’s death and its not long before David has worked his way firmly into the family.
Of course its not long before things start to seem a little off with this houseguest as David’s true self starts to slowly reveal itself as he helps out both of the Peterson’s children, first by helping Luke (Meyer) deal with a group of bullies while saving Anna’s friend Kristen (Shaun) from her aggressive ex-boyfriend. Both are issues he resolves with maximum violence and an icy cold disregard for the aftermath of his actions which makes these action scenes so great to watch especially when David despatches them with such ease and almost robotic style, it’s easy to understand why so many other critics have been so quick to draw comparisons to “The Terminator”. That being said David is not a mindless thug as in the aftermath of him beating the hell out of the bullies who have been taunting Luke, trashing the local bar in the process he uses his knowledge of the law to blackmail the bar owner into now reporting what happened, rather than the film using the usual movie logic were actions come with no consequence unless it’s important to the plot of the film.
The action scenes are all handled well with Wingard managing to include a Peckinpah style shoot out without somehow sacrificing the tone of the film. Its only made the more suprising to have this scene, especially when the tone of the film is generally one of a slow burn thriller and its Wingard’s refusal to stick to any one genre let alone his ability to effortless switch between them is really one of the things which makes this film so special, especially when combined with the films tight script which knows exactly what to reveal and what to leave as a mystery and certainly when it comes to aspects of the film such as David’s past it only further works to the films advantage.
Performance wise this really is Steven’s film as he holds your attention every time he’s on the screen with his model looks, baby blues and well-spoken demeanour, while its clear that something isn’t quite right about him. Of course when he does reveal his darker side its just as believable as what was assumed to be the real him and never played with any kind of over the top theatrics even when he goes full blown psycho. The rest of the cast are equally enjoyable to watch though you can’t playing things more toned down though Sheila Kelley is truly believable as the grieving mother, struggling to deal with the loss of her son.
A great film which more than lives up to its hype, while much like “Drive” borrows retro styling to truly make a unique viewing experience and one which will leave you frustrated that there are not more films like it. This is a film which is truly worth tracking down.