It's always impressive when a tiny little unknown
horror film just simply works.
Much like its title character, The Guest just
appeared out of nowhere and made you sit back and take notice: Wait a
second, who's that?
Actually not quite out of nowhere. Writer Simon
Barrett and director Adam Wingard got some serious critical love and a
little cult following for their previous scare film You're Next.
And while The Guest's breakout star Dan
Stevens is hardly a household name, he has a substantial following for his
very different work in Downton Abbey. Remembering this makes the
British actor's spot-on American accent even more impressive.
The supporting cast also includes a few
past-their-sell-by-date minor actors of the past – including Leland Orser
(ER), Sheila Kelley (Sisters), Lance Reddick (The Wire),
Joel David Moore (Avatar) and Ethan Embry (Sweet Home Alabama).
However, none of these factors really readied you
for how good The Guest was going to be: an intense and surprising
chiller that ratchets up the tension before slightly spinning out in a
somewhat clever but overly gimmicky climax.
One day, out of the blue, a young man named David
(Stevens) shows up at the rural Peterson household, a home still in mourning
after the Afghanistan war death of the oldest son, Caleb. David claims to
have been a friend of Caleb's in the war and says that Caleb wanted to check
up on his family when he got back home. While to a certain extent, the guy
seems a little too odd (he jogged the miles to their home) and too perfect
to be true (he's smart, strong, confident, sexy and giving), the family lets
him stay a bit until he decides on his next move.
David quickly becomes a white knight (or dark
knight) for the family, going into the shadows to take increasingly violent
vengeance upon anyone who crosses the Peterson's – the bullies who pick on
the youngest son (Brendan Meyer), the slimeball ex who is following the teen
daughter (Maika Monroe), the co-worker who screwed dad (Leland Orser) out of
Eventually the daughter sees through David's veneer
of the perfect soldier and starts to have second thoughts about whether
their houseguest is behind the vicious actions and awful coincidences that
have been befalling their family since he has arrived. She contacts the
military to get more info about the guy.
While she is told that he is dead, her call alerts
the special forces of his location, and it eventually comes out that David
is some sort of bred super-spy, a Manchurian candidate that the Army has
programmed to be a perfect killing machine.
In an interview on the Blu-ray extras, star Dan
Stevens refers to his character as "Captain America gone bad," and that is
just about a perfect description of his cracked character.
In the meantime, David's realization that the family
is losing faith in him causes him to turn against them, leading to an
The movie has a few minor plot holes. The film
never quite seems to decide whether David and Caleb really served together –
there is a picture of the two in a platoon at the Peterson house, but later
the Petersons have their serious doubts. Also, for such a brilliant
tactical soldier, it is hard to believe that David was caught by surprise
when the military showed up after the daughter inquired about him.
However, these are little nitpicks in what is
otherwise a pretty terrific suspense picture. The Guest got a minor
cult following when it was released to theaters earlier this year.
Hopefully now that it is being released on video and on demand, it will
receive the wider audience that it so fully deserves.
All rights reserved. Posted: January 1, 2015.