Movie Review: The Guest

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The Peterson family take in a soldier after he explains his connection to their dead son, but they soon find out he isn’t all he seems.

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Adam Wingard, 2014

The Petersons are barely keeping it together since their soldier son was killed in Afghanistan. Their house is filled with quiet mourning and disunity until David (Dan Stevens) knocks on their door and introduces himself to matron Laura (Sheila Kelley). He seems to know just the right things to say to win her over, and she finds herself inviting him to stay longer and longer, allowing him to introduce himself to the rest of the family. Father Spencer (Leland Orser) is impressed with his humility and work ethic. Bullied (and potentially gay?) teenage son Luke (Brendan Meyer) is thrilled when David stands up for him. Only waitress daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) is less than taken with David, in spite of his charm and six pack. When mysterious accidents start befalling people making the Petersons’ lives harder, she looks into his past, finding out he may not be everything he claims to be.

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The main draw of The Guest is an absolute powerhouse performance from Brit Dan Stevens, previously best known for Downton Abbey. He is utterly magnetic as David. Another actor may have made the film hokey, but Stevens is so charming that you completely believe that the traumatised Petersons would happily invite him into their home based on force of personality alone. The creepiness of the character is increased slowly – he holds a gaze for a little too long, drops the smile too quickly, handles danger too calmly – but it’s always kept in check by that charm. Even when awful things are happening around them and it’s very clearly his doing, you still like the guy somehow. Unfortunately, the cast around him can’t quite meet his energy. Maika Monroe is particularly flat as the most suspicious member of the family (and she looks like someone else, it was driving me crazy the whole film. I still can’t figure out who it is), but the parents don’t fare much better. Only Brendan Meyer as the bullied, angry teenager Luke and Lance Reddick’s army major hold their own in the face of Stevens’ terrific performance.

While the plot of the movie actually holds together pretty well, pulling from horror, thriller, and a few scifi elements, there are some pacing problems. The second act strains right to the edges of disbelief when, long after David has caused some pretty major violence in very obvious ways, the Petersons continue to trust him. Luckily the third act is action-packed, tense and fun. The film is at its best when exploring the dynamic between disturbing David and disturbed Luke, who appreciates David’s protection and friendship so much that he’s willing to overlook some pretty major transgressions. Anna could have been interesting had she been more likeable, but even the movie seems to not like her much; perhaps director Adam Wingard could have taken a leaf out of his own book and made his heroine a little more like You’re Next’s Erin. Hell, just the idea of watching Erin go up against David is delightful. Having said that, it’s always nice to be pleasantly surprised. I watched this on Netflix’s recommendation and I was completely drawn in for the ride.

The Guest on IMDb

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3 thoughts on “Movie Review: The Guest

  1. I’d completely forgotten about this film so I’m so glad I stumbled upon this review! I saw a trailer for this a while back and made a mental note that it sounded good but I’d completely forgotten! In your review you mention pacing problems – would you say this takes something away from the movie overall or would you say its still a good film to try on a lazy evening haha?

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