Writer-director team Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett have been ones to watch in the horror genre for the past few years. Their eye-catching segments in anthology series V/H/S and The ABCs of Death alongside their slick features You’re Next and A Horrible Way To Die planted them firmly on the map of astute genre fans everywhere. Their latest is The Guest, a sort of mutant hybrid of First Blood and Halloween that marks the duo’s most ambitious – and most enjoyable – work to date.
For the majority of the film Wingard and Barratt keep their cards close to their chest and it’s a strategy that works well. The Guest is a film best entered into blind. The story centres on a middle-American family struggling to come to terms with the death of their eldest son who was killed in action. When a handsome stranger (Dan Stevens) arrives on their doorstep claiming to be their son’s war-buddy and one of the last people to see him alive, the family’s matriarch Laura (Sheila Kelley) jumps at the chance to welcome him into her home and use him as a cushion for her grief.
Calling himself “David”, this new arrival assimilates into the family unit surprisingly well, taking a particular shine to the two teens of the household Luke (Brendan Meyer) and Anna (Maika Monroe). Longing for any connection to her lost son, Laura invites David to stay indefinitely, allowing him the chance to fix some family’s problems using his very unique and highly trained set of skills. Luke gets some hands-on advice on how to handle school bullies; Anna gets the chiseled date she always dreamed of and their mother gets to feel closer to the son she lost too soon. However it’s not long before the wheels start to fall off. When a string of mysterious deaths suddenly crop up and David’s cloudy background is put under a microscope, the family guest starts to outstay his welcome.
Action packed and stylishly shot, The Guest is an amalgam of 80s movie fodder, diluted through two fanboy writer-directors and given a modern facelift. Star Dan Stevens has made some questionable choices since ditching Downton for Hollywood but his turn here sees him redefine any preconceptions you may have of him. Charismatic and deadly, this new side shows that he has an impressive range and much more to offer than just ‘Posh Brit’. However it’s Wingard and Barratt that seem to have found a new level of polished product here. While it’s impossible to ignore the cinematic influences – especially with their killer retro soundtrack pulsing throughout the picture – The Guest sees them comfortably firing on all cylinders whilst creating their very own unstoppable movie baddie to add to the lexicon in the process. Impressive stuff.
Words by Simon Bland (@SiTweetsToo).