REVIEW: The Guest

DAN STEVENS stars in the action thriller THE GUEST, opening in September.
DAN STEVENS stars in the action thriller THE GUEST, opening in September.

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.