Director: Adam Wingard
MPAA Rating: R
[This is a repost of our review from Sundance 2014, The Guest opens in select cities today.]
With last year’s wildly popular horror flick You’re Next, and segments in the V/H/S movies and The ABCs of Death, writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard are quickly making a name for themselves as the kings of genre cinema. Their latest collaboration, The Guest, further proves that they are a force to be reckoned with. Part ‘80s action flick, part horror thriller, and pure visceral fun, The Guest honors the classics from yesteryear without feeling like a rip-off. It’s got its own voice, and that voice is loud and ready to smack you in the face.
Dan Stevens stars as David, a recently discharged solider visiting the family of one of his fallen brothers who he vowed to protect. While skeptical at first, the family begins to bond with David, letting him stay with them until he decides where he wants to go. After some strange behavior, the daughter of the family, Anna (Maika Monroe), becomes leery of David and uncovers that he may not be the man he says he is.
Straight from the opening titles, it’s clear that the viewer is in for a hell of a ride. The pounding 80s synth soundtrack, the deadpan performance by Stevens, the small town Halloween backdrop, it’s like if John Carpenter were to direct The Terminator. It’s pure ‘80s bliss, one-liners and all.
Stevens shines as David, the gentlemen soldier with a dark secret. It’s been years since I’ve seen a bigger badass on screen. Early in the film there’s a bar fight, which, thanks to an amazing buildup, is laugh out loud funny and completely kick-ass at the same time.
This humor is really where The Guest elevates itself from other films with a similar flavor. From the beginning we know that this is a movie with its tongue firmly planted in its cheek in order to maximize the amount of fun to be had. It’s important to note that these comedic beats don’t cheapen the film- they enhance it.
Prior to this, Barrett and Wingard stuck mostly to their horror roots, and while this contains plenty of horror elements, it leans more toward the action/thriller territory. It was great to see that these two can handle action just as well as horror, with a number of extremely satisfying fights and shootouts. Did I mention Dan Stevens is a badass?
Although the finale treads a bit too far into slasher territory The Guest remains Adam Wingard’s best to date. This is a film best served cold, so try not to read too many plot details and just go to the cinema and enjoy the ride.