Film Review – The Guest
The guys behind the very successful You’re Next are moving on from animal-masked murderers to just a friendly guy who is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, to say the least. Director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett resurrected an overused scenario and made it their own in The Guest.
The Guest follows the Peterson family as a guy purporting to be their deceased son’s friend from war shows up on their doorstep. David (Dan Stevens) is Southern, polite and quite charming, but he wins the heart of Laura Peterson (Sheila Kelly) after speaking about her son. Invited to stay the night, he meets the rest of the family, father, Spencer (Leland Orser), younger son, Luke (Brendan Meyer), and daughter, Anna (Maika Monroe). As the family adjusts to a reminder of their son, they become fond of David and he is asked to stay longer. It isn’t until Anna overhears David on a phone call that she does some investigating and finds out he is not who he says he is. Things unravel from there.
The Guest draws heavily on 1980s thriller and horror films. It does not take long for a viewer to draw that conclusion. It took thirty seconds in and the title of the film slamming on the screen to make a mental note that that is “totally” from the 80s. The reminders of those corny films that a lot of us hold near and dear to our hearts, keep coming. However, this is not an 80s film and the reminders are not hitting us on the head, the filmmakers standing behind us whispering, “That right there was influenced heavily by Terminator.” They are more like nods to that film culture that many films try to emulate. I was relatively sheltered from the violent 80s films, and if I may speak frankly, the previews for A Nightmare on Elm Street and Alien scared the hell out of me. Suffice it to say, I can still spot a really well done 80s feel, even if I have not experienced all the films influencing Wingard and Barrett’s work.
The music of The Guest is very distinct and memorable. It is heavily influenced by the electronic, synthesizer music heard in films of the 80s. The music has a dark, goth tone to it as well, and more current music that fits that sound is incorporated. The only film comparable to it is Drive. The music is so distinct that it becomes one of the elements you will always associate with The Guest, very much like Drive.
While this film should be considered more of a thriller than a horror film, there is still plenty of blood, guns, knives, and fights to meet the violence quota. Unlike films with the same general plot or in those genres, The Guest does not take itself too seriously. Along with the 80s references, the film is quite funny at times. Not the “this is so bad” funny, but comedy having to do with the settings, the dialogue between the characters, or the way Dan Stevens plays David. The way English-born Stevens is able to transform himself into a polite, yet psychotic, Kentucky boy is quite remarkable. His lines are said with purpose, and slowly like some Southerns do. He plays David so calmly in such chaotic or disturbing situations that it is hilarious.
The Guest has the potential to be a sleeper success, much like You’re Next. It is not a slasher film, but a very enjoyable thriller. The film does not take itself too seriously (if that is even possible), and laughter is not something you would expect from a film with this plot. It is a nice change from the thrillers that really are not that creative anymore. Lose your preconceived notions about the film, take your 80s nostalgia, and go see this very fun (but violent) film.