FOLLOWING on from his inventive home invasion horror flick You’re Next, Adam Wingard’s following feature, The Guest, is a slightly more restrained yet surprisingly enjoyable thriller.
Dan Stevens (in flawless all-American mode) stars at David, a mysterious military man who arrives at the home of a grieving family, claiming to have previously served with their K.I.A. son. Invited to stay with them and gradually ingratiating himself into their lives, it’s soon revealed that something is not quite right and, as bodies start to accumulate around town, a more sinister truth emerges.
From the title font to the synth-laden score and soundtrack, it is clear we are in 80s inspired territory. Hints of influences such as The Hitcher, The Stepfather and The Terminator (as well as a hefty dose of John Carpenter) permeate throughout the film, and yet although it starts out straight enough, we soon are made aware of just how much The Guest’s tongue is set firmly in its cheek.
Although at times predictable and even downright bordering on the ridiculous, the irreverence, dark streak of humour and the sheer self-awareness in its delivery throughout, all set The Guest a mile above what its (at first) seemingly standard set-up for a thriller might suggest. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, the plot revelations aren’t overly explained and the pacing is excellent – but most of all: its just plain old fun.
The film’s secret weapon is, of course, Dan Stevens (best known for his role in the hit TV series Downton Abbey) whose presence here is so magnetic that he wins over the audience just as easily as he does with the various characters that cross David’s path during the film. Managing to straddle the divide between hero and villain so effortlessly and radiating pure charisma – it’s worth watching this for Steven’s performance alone – a star-making turn if there ever was one.
Elsewhere, character actors such as Leland Orser and Joel David Moore pop up to great effect, but it’s also Maika Monroe that stands out from the rest of the decent cast of relative unknowns – a delight as we see her slowly evolve from bratty teenager to ersatz Final Girl.
Perhaps the most unexpected treat of the year so far, The Guest offers much more than its simple premise, coupled with perhaps one of the most effective soundtracks of the year. Entertaining enough for the casual cinemagoer, but for the fans of the 80s horror/thriller genres this is nigh on unmissable.
(Score: 4 out of 5)