As the opening film of FrightFest 2014 The Guest was the perfect choice blending slasher movie tropes with 80’s action film feel in a movie that was immensely entertaining yet had an undeniable jet black bite to it.
Directed by Adam Wingard who wowed audiences with You’re Next last year The Guest is penned by long time collaborator Simon Barrett and tells the story of David (Dan Stevens a long way from Downton Abbey) a US Solider who has just returned from action and heads straight for the family home of his friend who died while serving beside him.
Welcomed in by the mother who is still grieving and asked to stay awhile the charming and polite David relays the message from their dead son that he loved them and tells everyone he is here to look out for them in their passed sons stead including the younger brother Luke (Brendan Meyer) and his sister Anna (Maika Monroe).
However David’s version of helping and protecting the family involves dishing out extreme violence to anyone who wrongs them and as the brutality escalates Anna becomes suspicious of their seemingly perfect house guest. Calling the military to look into David she uncovers a heap of horrible secrets that the guest wants kept that way whatever the cost.
Balanced perfectly in its tone the movie moves between stark family drama, tongue in cheek homage, gripping thriller and all out horror as David like a soft spoken cuckoo gradually works his way into the family unit acting like a Southern gentleman on the outside while a ragging psychotic river of chaos runs underneath the surface of his smiling exterior.
Dan Stevens is brilliant as David never going too far into the camp and gurning realm occupied by so many actors playing similar roles. Utterly convincing it is a role he seems born to play and definite proof that he is leading man material. Keeping up a quiet and frightening intensity at all times the triumph in his performance is that like the rest of the Peterson family you genuinely like him that is until its too late for everyone involved.
The supporting cast around Stevens including Joel David Moore from Avatar and Hatchet and the always great Lance Reddick from Fringe and The Wire are all excellent especially Maika Monroe and Brendan Meyer who keep the right amount of teen angst up to be believable characters even in the face of such a crazy set up.
Openly admitting that The Guest is a tribute of sorts to the master of horror John Carpenter, seen most obviously of all in the Halloween setting and the magnificent modern 80’s electo soundtrack, Wingard cleverly prevents The Guest from being either a parody or a cheap imitation keeping in enough knowing moments and tounge in cheek lines to keep the crowd happy but never slipping too far away from the horror that lies below which is a hard feat to achieve.
Packed full of violence, horror, tension and terror The Guest combines a crazy and fun premise with an awesome lead performance offering up a crowd pleasing movie that is guaranteed to entertain making this one guest you will most definitely want to stay forever.