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The Guest (A Movie Review)

Updated: Apr 16, 2020

The Guest

The Guest

THE GUEST (2014)

Starring Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick, Tabatha Shaun, Chase Williamson, Joel David Moore, Ethan Embry, Stephen Brown, Brenden Wedner, Alex Knight, Nancy Jeris, Matt Page, Katie Anne Mitchell, Frank Bond, Mike Miller, Jesse Luken and Kelsey Montoya.

Screenplay by Simon Barrett.

Directed by Adam Wingard.

Distributed by Picturehouse.  99 minutes.  Rated R.

It’s always impressive when a tiny little unknown horror film just simply works.

Much like its title character, The Guest just appeared out of nowhere and made you sit back and take notice: Wait a second, who’s that?

Actually not quite out of nowhere.  Writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard got some serious critical love and a little cult following for their previous scare film You’re Next.

And while The Guest’s breakout star Dan Stevens is hardly a household name, he has a substantial following for his very different work in Downton Abbey.  Remembering this makes the British actor’s spot-on American accent even more impressive.

The supporting cast also includes a few past-their-sell-by-date minor actors of the past – including Leland Orser (ER), Sheila Kelley (Sisters), Lance Reddick (The Wire), Joel David Moore (Avatar) and Ethan Embry (Sweet Home Alabama).

However, none of these factors really readied you for how good The Guest was going to be: an intense and surprising chiller that ratchets up the tension before slightly spinning out in a somewhat clever but overly gimmicky climax.

One day, out of the blue, a young man named David (Stevens) shows up at the rural Peterson household, a home still in mourning after the Afghanistan war death of the oldest son, Caleb.  David claims to have been a friend of Caleb’s in the war and says that Caleb wanted to check up on his family when he got back home.  While to a certain extent, the guy seems a little too odd (he jogged the miles to their home) and too perfect to be true (he’s smart, strong, confident, sexy and giving), the family lets him stay a bit until he decides on his next move.

David quickly becomes a white knight (or dark knight) for the family, going into the shadows to take increasingly violent vengeance upon anyone who crosses the Peterson’s – the bullies who pick on the youngest son (Brendan Meyer), the slime ball ex who is following the teen daughter (Maika Monroe), the co-worker who screwed dad (Leland Orser) out of a job.

Eventually the daughter sees through David’s veneer of the perfect soldier and starts to have second thoughts about whether their house guest is behind the vicious actions and awful coincidences that have been befalling their family since he has arrived.  She contacts the military to get more info about the guy.

While she is told that he is dead, her call alerts the special forces of his location, and it eventually comes out that David is some sort of bred super-spy, a Manchurian candidate that the Army has programmed to be a perfect killing machine.

In an interview on the Blu-ray extras, star Dan Stevens refers to his character as “Captain America gone bad,” and that is just about a perfect description of his cracked character.

In the meantime, David’s realization that the family is losing faith in him causes him to turn against them, leading to an inevitable explosion.

The movie has a few minor plot holes.  The film never quite seems to decide whether David and Caleb really served together – there is a picture of the two in a platoon at the Peterson house, but later the Petersons have their serious doubts.  Also, for such a brilliant tactical soldier, it is hard to believe that David was caught by surprise when the military showed up after the daughter inquired about him.

However, these are little nitpicks in what is otherwise a pretty terrific suspense picture. The Guest got a minor cult following when it was released to theaters earlier this year.  Hopefully now that it is being released on video and on demand, it will receive the wider audience that it so fully deserves.

Alex Diamond

Copyright ©2015 All rights reserved. Posted: January 1, 2015.

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