The Guest begins with the intriguing premise where the charming and charismatic David (Dan Stevens) turns up out of the blue at the house of the Peterson family, announcing that he served in the military with their son, Caleb, and that he was with them when the young soldier died. Of course, anyone could say that, but his story checks out because he can be seen in a photo in the household where he’s pictured alongside Caleb.
Only intending to stay for a couple of days, he soon ingratiates himself into the family as if he’s replacing the son and brother they lost, looking cool as a cucumber and as if he’s too good to be true, while the family are lapping up every last Tom Cruise-style smirk as a measure of his true character. But then some bad stuff starts happening, people start getting all spooked out, and it’s one of those films where we know that he’s a bad apple, but the question is – how long will it take for everyone else to figure it out, and how many will have to suffer until they do?
Dan Stevens has a definite screen presence, and this British actor is already making a name for himself on the other side of the pond with recent hits such as Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb and A Walk Among the Tombstones, while also starring in the forthcoming The Ticket, The Cobbler – alongside Adam Sandler, and Criminal Activities, also starring John Travolta. Of course, TV viewers will also know him as Matthew Crawley from ITV’s Downton Abbey.
Commendation also goes to the ‘children’ of the family, Maika Monroe as 20-year-old Anna, and Brendan Meyer as her teenage brother Luke, Leland Orser will be familiar to E.R. viewers as the head of the family, with Sheila Kelley having more to do than him as the mother, and there’s a welcome appearance from The Wire‘s Cedric Daniels, i.e. Lance Reddick, as military bod Major Carver.
The Guest builds slowly with some neat sequences early on such as a well-directed bar fight, and some engaging directorial choices which make me feel like I’m watching a thriller made in the ’70s, whilst the occasional ’80s-like soundtrack makes for a great blend. Yes, there are some moments early on that feel a little on the predictable side, but those can be forgiven because of what else is on view, such as the right balance of humour, particularly in a scene which features ’90s track Because I Love You (The Postman Song) by Stevie B, one of those tracks which drove me up the wall with its incessant play in 1991 as it reached No.6 in the charts, yet I was in fits of giggles when it was delivered here (pun not intended).
Overall, for a number of reasons, which I don’t want to give away here as they’d be spoilers, The Guest, while it is a bit daft occasionally, it is sure to become a cult classic. And I’ve so got to get the soundtrack CD.
I’d also highly recommend You’re Next, from the same writer/director team of, respectively, Simon Barrett and Adam Wingard. It’s a slasher flick which may have a lack of tension – something which is brought to The Guest when required, but it makes up with lashings of gore that’s missing from any number of identikit modern horror films.
Go to page 2 for the presentation and the extras, and click on the packshot for the full-size image.