The Guest (2014)

The Guest (2014)

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Don't trust him, even if he is that chap from Downton.
Don’t trust him, even if he is that chap from Downton.

Twitter Plot Summary: A mysterious strange entwines himself into the life of a grieving family. Then everything goes seriously crazy.

The Petersen family are fractured following the death of their eldest son/brother in combat. Turning up on their doorstep completely out of the blue, Dan Stevens’ David very quickly ingratiates himself to the whole family, explaining that he was friends with the deceased soldier. He wears them all down individually – the mother allows him to stay as he provides a final link to her son; the father allows him to stay a few days longer because he finds himself able to talk about his financial issues over a few beers and a game of American Football; other son Luke is drawn in by David showing him how to deal with some bullies; and daughter Anna is lured in by his cool side and willingness to let her smoke and drink without her parents finding out. Before you can say “Think about it” he’s almost fully integrated into the family unit as if he’d always been a part of it.

So far, so ordinary. Yet David has a dark side to him, one moment all smiles and then seconds later the darkness descends. Dan Stephens is a revelation as David, a far cry from his role on Downton Abbey and clearly enjoying playing himself in the role. His method of twisting the family round to accepting him are nothing short of genius, exploiting their weaknesses and using them for his own personal gain. His versatility as an actor is defined in this one film, and marks him as one to look out for in the future.

The patient buildup is worth it, as everything hits the fan once David’s story starts to wear thin and the body count, from nowhere, starts to rack up. It’s a superb effort, great performances combined with a riot of a script that finds the perfect balance between darkness and light – much like David. Once the government get involved, things really start to get out of control, more so when you realise that even they are near powerless to take David on.

I'd be more concerned about the pumpkin headed witch.
I’d be more concerned about the pumpkin headed witch.

All of this comes via Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett who gave us the excellent genre mashup that was You’re Next. What is great about their films is that they effectively balance comedy with scares, humour with terror. They seem to have an understanding of how genre works and which mashups work the best. On first glance there may not be much originality to both The Guest and You’re Next, but in both cases they prove to be much more than the sum of their parts, and again carried by the performances of all involved.

As an homage to (or even a pastiche of) 80s action and horror, The Guest is thoroughly enjoyable tale from start to finish, especially when the patient build-up gives way to absolute craziness and a knowing nudge nudge, wink wink in the audience’s direction. We know precisely where this is going, yet are more than happy to go along for the ride. Would a sequel be too much to ask for?

Score: 4/5

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