Reviewer Gavin Miller was suitably surprised by how good The Guest...
British Downton Abbey star Dan Stevens simply sizzles with an enigmatically creepy turn in this intelligently dark thriller – which comes completely under the radar to be one of the best movie surprises of the year.
With clever set-pieces, laudable performances, and a killer twist, this latest film from acclaimed horror director Adam Wingard – who helmed last year’s acclaimed You’re Next – is a great genre piece that has a clever grounding (and a superb musical score) that pays homage to violent horrors of the eighties with its almost B-movie roots.
The funny thing is, it’s so original, it only becomes a horror in spasms, with the first half playing out as seemingly heartwarming drama, that deliciously evolves into a psychological thriller – but bizarrely with a likeable anti-hero.
Said hero is well-mannered and caring ex-soldier David (Stevens), who befriends the family of a fallen comrade – still mourning their son’s death – after being welcomed into their home, and in a great couple of set-pieces helps their youngest son Luke (Brendan Meyer), who is getting bullied at school, and daughter Anna (Maika Monroe), who is getting led astray by her drug-dealing boyfriend.
But all is not what it seems with this ‘knight in shining armour’, when a series of accidental deaths are connected with his presence – and the deliciously eerie David evolves into something darker.
The film’s satirical undertone won’t be to everyone’s taste, but this is undoubtedly a step up from the usual teenage/early twenties Saturday night cinema outing – and offers that something refreshingly admirable that deserves to get an audience.
It also knows what it is – you can almost feel Stevens cracking up on set during his really creepy takes at the excellent lead protagonist – by having the ability to laugh at its own sometimes preposterous expense.
With Stevens’ sadistic movie breakout performance, its B-movie homage, eerily terrific score, and the movie’s ability to expertly flip itself on its head halfway through – it all marries up to make this a guilty ‘curveball’ pleasure.
Through all the creepiness, The Guest welcomes you in – and puts a smile on your face.