Review: The Guest

Without a doubt the most unashamedly entertaining genre picture of the year, The Guest presents filmmaker Adam Wingard (You're Next) at the top of his game, as well as a star turn that should put Dan Stevens on the map as one of the most exciting new faces in Hollywood.

The Guest follows the Peterson family as David (Dan Stevens) a young soldier turns up at their door and introduces himself as a friend of their son who died in combat. After welcoming David into their home a series of bizarre murders and mysterious events begin to take place leading to questions about the soldiers real identity.

Wingard has crafted a loving throwback to the glory days of eighties and nineties horror-thrillers packed with hyper-stylised violence, pulsating visuals, intentional melodramatic camp, and wry black comedy.

Wingard has a lot of fun playing with the melodramatic tone of The Guest and this is a film brimming with intentional humour and dark camp. Shots of David grimacing into nothingness paired with an ominous soundtrack and sharp booming cuts to the next scene give the film an amusingly quirky charm, whilst successfully crafting both an unsettling and humorous tone. This tone continues in the family's reaction to their new 'perfect houseguest' - looming shots of the shirtless soldier's jaw-dropping good looks and chiselled physique followed by glimpses at now the Peterson's heavy-breathing daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) add to the laughs and melodrama.

However, The Guest is at its most entertaining when Wingard gradually explores David's darker (yet still undeniably charming) side. With this darker territory comes a gripping stylised-violence, which paired with a synth-heavy soundtrack and pulsating lighting (most notably in the film's conclusion) showcases a dark undercurrent to the generally bright and humorous suburban melodrama. This also gives Stevens the chance to deliver some wonderfully wicked lines of darkly humorous dialogue with complete conviction - for example, when we see David tell young Luke how to cope with bullies: "Burn their houses down with their families inside. What’s the worst they could do?”

Dan Stevens commands the screen as the mysterious veteran and even when fully aware of his dark secrets, David is a character who we are all likely to form a twisted attachment to. Physically magnetic, the beard-rocking, tanned, blonde-haired and chiselled Stevens ensures attention is fully on David throughout the course of The Guest gripping our attention throughout.

The Guest knowingly takes on the genre tropes of the horror-thriller and re-energises them with a punchy style and unhinged sense of fun. Narrative elements featuring military testing, prom dances and Halloween mazes creep into Wingard's film - bringing a sense of nostalgia and likeable familiarity to the fold. Themes of military life post 9/11 and secrecy in the suburban family also prove that there is more than nostalgia to The Guest if willing to look for it.

Like this year's Cold in July, The Guest is a no holds barred throwback to the glory days of the late-eighties horror-thriller. Packed with stirring visuals, a tone that is unsettling yet darkly comic, and a career defining turn from Dan Stevens, The Guest is one of the best films of 2014.

And just for the fun of it...

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