Boldly striking in style and content, ‘The Guest’ comes knocking at your door with electronic tunes, breakneck editing and a tour de force performance from Dan Stevens. It’s a clever mash-up of genres that somehow blend together nicely to tell, perhaps not a grand scale story but an enjoyable, dark and tense one nonetheless.
The Peterson family are trying to deal with the news that Caleb, their son/brother has died at war, it seems that a mysterious and unreadable arrival to their house who knew Caleb could help them through this tough time. This guest’s name is David (Dan Stevens) and it isn’t long until his presence in the house draws in interest from bullied Luke (Brendan Meyer) and parent oppressed Anna (Maika Monroe).
Firstly, the look of this film is incredible, it never feels like it’s trying desperately to come across as stylishly as it does, but yet it does. It’s an environment that lets David breathe and do his thing. From snappy cuts to longer more moody wide shots there’s a lot helping this film run quickly along, especially in the latter half of the movie. This moody wide shots as I call them are done a few times as they pan round to let us see David just staring into the middle distance, not a flicker of any emotion to be had across his face. The shots arrive after something cut together faster so this sudden slowing in movement jolts us into feeling that undeniable worry of who is this man in their house. Going back to the style of the film and its impact, there is an excellent, rattling ride of fun and terror in the final act, it may be an over the top setting but it works in the horror/thriller genre fantastically and…wow, is it ever a final act to take glee in watching unfold.
Directed and edited by Adam Wingard, who was on directing duty for the horror ‘You’re Next’ brings that know how into this film, it’s toned down slightly but there’s no questioning that some horror tropes are used to great effect in ‘The Guest’. It’s an almost roller-coaster ride from drama, war grief melodrama, bubbling tension and sexual tension, high school life, action, thriller, mystery and horror. This last one is unexpected, I never expected what I saw in the film when I viewed the trailer and that’s no negative point, it’s in fact a welcomed positive to have expectations flipped on their head. The horror thread starts becoming a thicker more prominent stitch in the tapestry of this film as it goes on and it isn’t long until knives, blood and suspenseful music are drawn landing us in some resemblance of horror territory. It’s never actually a full blown horror though, just like everything else mirroring David, there’s aspects of different moods in this movie.
The film has a brilliant soundtrack which I’m sure will be listened to by many upon hearing it in the movie. A lot of it is instrumental which leaves no vocal distractions to the backing of the scene being played out. It has electronic echoes of ‘Drive’ which help the film build that tension of character as David becomes a sort of Gosling like figure that speaks minimally, looks threatening but has a twinkle in his eye. This soundtrack is clever in linking up to Anna’s character and helps the final act with a neat addition of her mix CD being used to rack up the audible and visual suspense.
Dan Stevens, who I’ve never seen in anything else, I only know of his ‘Downton Abbey’ roots makes this film what it is in a lot of ways and if he doesn’t become some Hollywood heartthrob or at least the next leading male star to look out for then I don’t what went wrong. To play a cold yet warm character such as this David takes a difficult amount of acting. He’s distant yet charming, alarming yet approachable and a plethora of other antithesis examples. He carries a swag and smirk near constantly that is at once cool and inviting but also unnerving. It’s a blank slate that he makes his own and by the end he’s some good bad guy with a Michael Myers vibe going on. Maika Monroe can easily be the rising star of film if this film is anything to go by. She plays the 20 year old Anna with doubt and confidence of her character with leaps and bounds and provides a more human angle to the show as it plays out, she looks like Kate Hudson and Amber Heard combined with her own thing too, a good looking and talented young actress to keep an eye on. Brendan Meyer, who looks like Chloe Grace Moretz with a wig brings another viewpoint of more human qualities as the tormented kid at school. He has a weird yet interesting rise to overcome his troubles with the help of Steven’s David.
There’s a few odd things such as how Luke doesn’t care one iota who David is and what goes on concerning him, the mother too makes a jarring stupid decision near the end and the actual truth of who David is can be slightly silly but that’s all part of the fun this film provides. There’s a deathly amount of black comedy that had the screen I was in laughing along at some pretty darkly delivered humour. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and you can tell, it’s having bundles of joy letting David worm his way into the Peterson family and so too do we in seeing it happen.
Slick, funny, dark and brilliantly crafted in creating a thriller/horror hybrid that makes a charismatic steely star out of Dan Stevens. So cool and so good, possible candidate for film of the year because it’s entertaining and seemingly came out of nowhere.