Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser
Written by: Simon Barrett
Running Time: 99 mins
Release date: 5th September 2014
Last year, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett reinvented the siege horror with the brilliantly inventive You’re Next. This year, they have managed to do it again with another horror genre picked up, shaken to its core and released on an unsuspecting public with The Guest, a film that is heavily influenced by John Carpenter’s Halloween but managing to have its own distinct voice. Plus it totally reinvents its lead actor too.
David, a soldier, arrives on the doorstep of the Peterson home, announcing that he was in the same troop as their son, who died in action. Immediately he is allowed in and becomes a house guest, claiming that he promised to look out for the family. He befriends Luke, the young son who is being bullied at school, with his own unique way of dealing with the problem. When strange things start to occur around the town, Anna Peterson becomes increasingly suspicious of David and who he says he is, as David is hiding a dark and dangerous secret.
The Guest is one of those pleasant surprises you occasionally get in cinemas. A film that on first glance, doesn’t promise much but once you are inside that cinema, you become instantly hooked on the story, the characters and have a deep fear of what is coming next. It’s a horror without actually being too horrific and a thriller that grips from the first frame to the very last.
Wingard and Barrett have become experts of delivering the unexpected and this is no exception. There’s plenty of twist and turns along the way as well as some familiarity to keep you well and truly grounded. The Halloween similarities are there to behold. We have a psychotic roaming around except he doesn’t wear a mask in the traditional sense. David is a much more controlling kind, polite to the extreme, he gets under the skin and know how to warm the hearts without giving away his real secret.
We have the time frame: the days leading to Halloween; it’s set in a small town and even the music has a John Carpenter electro-keyboard feel about it. This is where the similarities end because the rest of the film feels fresh and unique. We watch as we see the changing face of a monster and the young girl who cries wolf but no one listens until it is too late.
The performances from the cast are fine but they become almost insignificant in the face of Dan Stevens. Yes, he of Downton Abbey fan who won the hearts of millions as the debonair Matthew. Well you can forget about Mr Crawley because here he has produced one of the most chilling and disturbing creations to hit the screen in years. With his piercing blue eyes and comforting smile (as well as a body so toned he’d make most women swoon and most men envious), you can fully understand why anyone would believe him and trust him, yet on the flip side of his charming nature, there is a cold-bloodied demon. It’s a terrific performance and one that should set his place as a Hollywood leading man.
The Guest is 99 minutes of pure excitement, a gripping tale that never wastes a second. It shocks, it surprises, it also has deep-rooted black comedy veins. There hasn’t been that many satisfactory horrors/thrillers this year. Well that has now changed. This is an absolute belter and one that will haunt you days after you have seen it.