Adam Wingard follows up last year’s surprise hit, You’re Next, with his new action thriller – The Guest.
Before I delve into Simon Barrett’s clever writing or Dan Steven’s electric performance, let’s start with The Guest’s minimalist plot: The Peterson Family is mourning the loss of their son who died in Afghanistan when a David (Dan Stevens) shows up at their door claiming to be a friend of their fallen son. Hypnotized by David’s charisma, the Peterson’s invite him into their home to stay for a while. While most of the family is impressed by David’s southern charm, Ana (Maika Monroe) becomes suspicious of his identity after strange accidents start happening around their town.
Much like You’re Next, The Guest’s plot isn’t breaking new ground in the horror/thriller genre. The story is simple, but what Barrett and Wingard do well is take a simple story and make it better. The best thing the film does is take a basic premise, add a great soundtrack, a few laughs, suspense, and a compelling lead. It’s the formula that helped make horror movies so popular in the 80’s.
Barrett’s clever script never tries to overthink what’s happening. It keeps the audience in the moment while giving them ‘Who is David?’ breadcrumbs every 15 minutes. David’s reveal is wonderfully written. His motives are revealed little by little during each act and it plays out like three mini movies– it’s like mashing up three different different genres in one story.
What separates The Guest form it’s 80’s predecessors is how cool it looks. From the constant use of colors in the background to the way the action sequences are shot, you can tell Wingard’s added a nice 21st century feel to his film. Even the set up for the final act is straight out of a popular 70’s action film, but Wingard still manages to give it a unique touch.
No disrespect to the supporting casts, Barrett, or Wingard, but Dan Stevens is by far the best about the movie. It’s not even close. Stevens is captivating from the first moment he’s on screen. Having not seen him in much (sorry Downton Abbey fans), Steven’s onscreen presence was a pleasant surprise. Without giving away too much of the plot, Stevens character allows him the ability to play a multi-dimensional character and he plays it very well. He’s a legitimate actor who can be electrifying on the big screen when he’s given the right opportunity.
The Guest is a throwback to the early to the early 80’s with its over-the-top violence, fast paced action, and badass villain. The script isn’t too wordy. The characters aren’t too flushed out. And the story isn’t too complicated. It never tries to be anything but edge of your seat fun for 99 minutes. Sometimes that’s all you need in a film.
If you haven’t seen the trailer, I’d avoid it at all cost. It gives a way a little too much about the plot. If you’re planning on seeing it, don’t watch the trailer.
as posted on blog.seattlepi.com/peoplescritic