When the line between hero and villain gets smudged the outcome can be quite twisted and demented.
When the line between hero and villain gets smudged the outcome can be quite twisted and demented. Thankfully that is just what happens in the new action-thriller, THE GUEST. This film from Simon Barrett (writer) and Adam Wingard (director) (the minds behind the V/H/S franchise and You Are Next) is a perfect blend of creepy satisfaction.
David (Dan Stevens) shows up on the doorstep of the Peterson family claiming to be an ex-soldier and best friend of their son who died in combat. It doesn’t take him long to settle into their lives mainly due to his overtly charming demeanor. He is quiet and well-mannered and has the knack of saying and doing just the right thing in the right moment. He quickly befriends the youngest son Luke (Brendan Meyer) and smiles his way to the heart of the oldest daughter Anna (Maika Monroe). But when odd events begin to happen just outside the family circle you get the feeling that David has certainly blurred the lines. The film ends in an epic showdown that rivals any horror film you have seen in the past and elevates the movie to instant cult status.
This film may look familiar on the outside. How many stories have we seen about the ex-soldier with PTSD who terrorizes a family or community? They are usually cut from the same mold and with all the common tics. What Barrett and Wingard have done with David though is give us a crazy hybrid mix of Rambo, Michael Myers, and Jason Voorhees; all wrapped up in a heart melting Dan Stevens smile. The first two thirds of the film had every guy in the theater wanting to be David. The walk, posture, and confidence of a man who knows what he has to do and isn’t afraid to do it. Even after the terror begins you still sort of want to be on his friends list. That is important to the dynamic of the film and the fun from start to finish.
The soundtrack is also fantastic. It will bring back fond (or not so fond) memories of John Carpenter flicks where the tension builds with the simplest of melody lines. Around every corner is a bit of scenery or set design to remind you of all your favorite horror films of the past. Yet it never feels stolen and rehashed. Mainly because this is a fresh and uniquely crafted script. It takes so many well used premises and uses it as foundation to create a super fun, yet brutal, time at the theater. The characters are expertly penned, each with their own off balance personality. This consideration by Barrett gives THE GUEST a multi layered depth of humor and temperament. Leland Orser is proof of this as the scene stealing father, Spencer Peterson. You enjoy every moment he is on screen and he wonderfully turns an average working man into a memorable eccentric.
THE GUEST is rated R for strong violence, language, some drug use and a scene of sexuality. Certainly not for the family and probably not for those who cringe at blood. But those who love the genre and want a slick, out of the box, and well received thriller about a man just doing what he thinks he should; this is the one for you. I give it 4.5 out of 5 pep talks. It is so subtly crafted that you can’t really pinpoint why you love it. You just do.
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