Kieron Townend takes a look at Adam Wingard’s throwback to the action films of the 70’s in his new film The Guest.
As a film fan it can be quite hard to be genuinely surprised by a film. As a film reviewer, whether that be a hobby or a paid profession, it can be even more difficult to be surprised by a film, but every now and then, there is one film that comes out and does just that. The Guest is that kind of film, and is the kind of retro fix that fans of 70’s & 80’s action thrillers will not be able to get enough of.
A simple premise lies behind The Guest. A man arrives at the Peterson household claiming to be an old army buddy of their son, who was unfortunately killed in action. The man calls himself David (Dan Stevens), and informs the Peterson’s he is there to fulfil their dead sons wish of passing on his final words and making sure the family is looked after. Laura, mother of the murdered son Caleb, is glad to have David around and enjoys his company. While the rest of the family are at first reluctant to have David around, his charming ways soon see them change their minds. David would appear to be an impeccable houseguest, but there is something sinister lurking underneath. As David listens intently to the Peterson’s personal problems, events begin to take an ominous turn.
Director Adam Wingard’s previous effort, You’re Next, was hailed by many as one of the best modern horror films, and was a throwback to the classic horror films of the 80’s. With The Guest, Wingard has created an action thriller that takes its cues from the likes of Halloween, The Terminator and Assault on Precinct 13.
While The Guest does indeed play like a mix of some of the best films of that decade, it does more than simply pay homage to those movies, and feels more like a direct successor to those films. The films synth-like score, and moderately cheesy soundtrack are pure John Carpenter. While the one man army, portrayed brilliantly by Stevens, could easily have been sent back from the future to finish the job that Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator could not.
It’s all very well and good to celebrate a film that plays like a genre fan’s wet dream, but the mix of action, tension and violence coupled with a wicked sense of humour allow the film to be lauded on its own merits.
The biggest merit of the film has to be Dan Stevens in the lead role. You will see many other reviews talk about this as his breakout performance, and while I do not wish to repeat what others are saying, it would be amiss of me not to comment on his portrayal of David.Stevens effectively plays two roles in the film. He is one part charm and looks, and one part ruthless killing machine. His ability to get his own way is not to be underestimated, while his skill in hand to hand combat results in one of the most brutal bar fights in recent memory. He brings an energy to the film, and the film does slow down a little when he is not on-screen. Despite this, The Guest features a more than competent supporting cast.
Luke (Brendan Meyer) and Anna (Maika Monroe) are siblings who have differing views on their new guest. Luke begins to idolize him, especially once David deals with a group of bullies who are picking on him. While Anna remains suspicious of David’s real story Leland Orser helps in some of the funnier moments in the film as the father of the Peterson household, and Lance Reddick helps move the story along as the secret service operative who knows David’s true origins.
From beginning to end, The Guest remains an unrelenting thriller, and in among the violence and tension it has a dark humour that is delivered in excellent deadpan style. The Guest may not please everyone, particularly those fooled by a trailer that promises unrelenting action, but for genre fans and those who enjoy thrillers with a real sense of gratification The Guest has it all.
In summary: The Guest is an excellent thriller that mixes action and humour with a real sense of tension, and could be a contender for the surprise of the year.
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