Thursday, 1 January 2015

The Guest (2014)

There have been a lot of movies in recent years that have tried, and often succeeded, recapturing the tone of films that many of us enjoyed during the boom period of home entertainment. Those VHS glory days, if you will, when more fun could be had delving in to the bargain bins than opting for one of the latest blockbuster titles. Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett have never tried to hide their many influences, especially with the great mix of old and new horror elements that they used to great effect in You're Next, but this is one step up from that film. Despite the slight polish to the technical work, you could stick a Cannon logo on the front of this thing and convince people that it was a gem from the '80s they'd somehow missed. And that's a ringing endorsement, in case you weren't sure.

Dan Stevens stars (and it's a star-making turn, let me tell you) as a young man who introduces himself as David to the Peterson family. He is visiting them because he fought alongside their son in combat overseas. The father (Leland Orser) is more suspicious than the mother (Sheila Kelley), the daughter (Maika Monroe) isn't really bothered by anything other than her own life, and the son (Brendan Meyer) has his own stuff going on, mainly trying to survive the bullie at his school. But it's not long until everyone starts to take notice of David. He's such a charming guy, and he gets things done. He seems too good to be true, which means that you just know things aren't going to stay happy and idyllic for long.

The Guest is ALMOST a perfect film, for me. Perhaps after one or two more viewings I actually won't be able to think of even the smallest criticism, which I'm even struggling with now, but I'll hold off temporarily. This film had me smiling throughout, and there were at least five sequences that had me grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

Barrett provides a lean script, but don't let that fool you into thinking he must have had an easy job. On the contrary, every character and motivation is nicely sketched out. One or two stretches aside, the logic stays within the universe that these people inhabit, the dialogue is cool without ever feeling too stylised, and the slim plot unfolds at a perfect pace. It also keeps you rooting for a main character who could just as easily be painted as an absolute, no moral grey area, outright villain of the piece.

Wingard helps. Utilising a supercool soundtrack that could have been plucked from the '80s, he takes the opportunity to support the content here with a bucketload of cool style. This is a gorgeous film, at times, yet the visuals never prove to be a distraction. They simply serve to highlight the tone of the film, one of playfulness and exuberance as both writer and director work to present a gently satiric love letter to the kind of action thrillers that used to be, and still often are, adored by film fans while being completely ignored by critics.

The whole thing wouldn't work as well as it does if it didn't have such a winning performance from Stevens at the centre of it all. I defy anyone to watch this film and not fall for his charms. If there's any justice in the world then Stevens has plenty of good roles still to come, and deservedly so. Monroe and Meyer are both almost as good, with the latter especially touching as he finds a much-needed friend in the stranger that has entered his home. Orser and Kelley do fine work, Joel David Moore has a small, fun, role, and Lance Reddick is a major badass named Major Carver.

The Guest, in case you hadn't quite got the gist of what I was trying to say, is a film to get your blood pumping and even make you want to punch the air a few times. In short, it's the kind of film that they don't seem to make any more. Except for the fact that they do. And when they're as good as this one I can only hope for more in this vein.


Start your year off right. Buy my e-book, that has almost every review I've written over the past 5 years. It's very reasonably priced for the sheer amount of content.

The UK version can be bought here -

And American folks can buy it here -

As much as I love the rest of the world, I can't keep up with all of the different links in different territories, but trust me when I say that it should be there on your local Amazon.

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