Movie Review: “The Guest” – Most Entertaining Film of the Season

Written by Spencer Sterritt November 01, 2014

The Guest, Dan Stevens

Just in time for Halloween, “The Guest” has finally arrived in Canada. Sinfully fun and shot through with a wide streak of dark humour, “The Guest” is a new Halloween classic that revels in twisting the audiences ideas of what’s going to come next.

Dan Stevens of “Downton Abbey” fame stars as David Collins, a former US soldier who arrives one late October morning at the front door of the Peterson family. David served with the Peterson’s eldest son in the military before he passed away, and has now come to check up with the family. “The Guest” wastes no time showing how warped David actually is, and within a few days the Peterson family has had their world turned upside down.

“If they hurt you again you go to their house and burn it down with their whole family inside. What’s the worst that can happen?”

Directed by horror and mumblecore director Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, “The Guest” crackles with energy. I liked but didn’t love their previous effort, the home invasion dark comedy “You’re Next,” because it didn’t strike the right balance between horror and comedy. Freed from the literally confining home invasion genre, they run wild in “The Guest.” The suspense never flags even when the movie cracks jokes because nearly every punchline comes from just how fucked up David is.

The Guest, Dan Stevens

For only being 100 minutes “The Guest” is a relatively slow burn. Since no bones are made about the fact that David is incredibly off-kilter I expected the action to start in the second act. The suspense is almost palpable as Anna Peterson, now the oldest child, swings from infatuated to frightened and begins to investigate who David really is. There are some intense brawls before the 80 minute mark, but once the third act starts everything goes to Hell. A sequence in a Halloween themed maze, set to in vogue italo disco tunes, is a highlight that combines everything “The Guest” is going for into one set piece.

I’m a soldier, man. I like guns.

My only real complaint is that “The Guest” never settles on a good answer of who David is. Revealing that David is messed up so early in the film creates a lofty expectation for the end game, and why he’s so crazy. The fact that Wingard and Barrett use the audiences knowledge to play with them throughout the movie by ducking certain conventions only heightens the feeling that what David is should be a really cool twist on the old formula of “a crazy guy comes knocking.” The last twenty minutes of “The Guest” are crazy because of how funny and off the wall the action is, not how cool the twist about David is.

The Guest

Dan Stevens nails it as David. He holds himself like a snake, always ready to lash out, and there’s always a nasty glint in his eye. You’d never know from his performance on “Downton Abbey” but he’s a sly and gifted comedy performer. He smirks more than he smiles but you never have a reason to not like him until shit starts going South. And even then you still can’t hate him. Given all the bloodshed “The Guest” is an extremely dark comedy, but the laughs come from the hilarious things David says and the ensuing reaction shots, rather than grisly and odd kills.

“I’m gonna take all your guns.”

Much like “You’re Next” style is everything. There’s no deeper meaning to “The Guest,” no real message, nothing but an amazingly entertaining film. Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett have managed to perfectly balance black humour, action, suspense, and some acute character work into a delightful film, and that’s all you need.

My Rating: 8/10

THE GUEST

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About Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt

Spencer Sterritt: former Editor-In-Chief for We Eat Films, future President of the Men With Beards Club, and hopefully candidate for ruler of the world.

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