Film Review – The Guest starring Dan Stevens (2014)

5575_4157Last night I headed to a preview screening of the upcoming film The Guest starring British actor Dan Stevens. First things first, one thing is for sure – we’re not in Downton Abbey anymore Toto, but more on Mr Stevens later. The Guest is a psychological thriller/ genre slasher horror movie, directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett (who worked together on 2011’s You’re Next).

Set in dusty, sleepy American suburbia, the Petersons are grieving the loss of their oldest son Caleb, who has been killed in action in the Middle East. His mother Laura is struggling to cope, father Spencer is drinking more than you sense he used to, younger brother Luke is the school punchbag and daughter Anna is secretly dating the boy her parents do not approve of. In to this fractured family arrives David, who claims he not only served with Caleb, but was one of his closest friends, who was with him when he died and who promised to share with his family how he felt about each of them.

Dan Stevens as David

Dan Stevens as David

Although reluctant to accept him initially, David soon becomes central to the family, through cleverly identifying each member’s weakness and stepping in to help them with it (for example, if ever there was an advert for not bullying someone this is it). However Anna soon becomes suspicious of this mysterious, handsome stranger and begins to question if he really is who he says he is.

In order to enjoy this film you need to go in with an understanding of the type of genre film you are about to watch. If you are expecting a film along the lines of a modern action thriller, akin to the Bourne movies, then you’ll probably be a little underwhelmed as that’s not the sort of film Wingard and Barrett have sought to make here. Instead The Guest is an homage to the road movie / slasher horror VHS films of the 70s/80s and it’s not ashamed to flaunt it, with much success.

The Guest starts out as a fairly tense thriller. Despite his charming, polite manner, the audience senses David is hiding something and an uneasy atmosphere settles over the film. As the story moves along, so does the style and it soon becomes more akin to a cheesy old school slasher horror film. This clearly won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but Wingard and Barrett have executed the film perfectly for the genre, one they clearly have much affection for. It is tense, thrilling, disturbing, with scenes of violence, but also quite a few moments that you can’t help but find funny, whether it’s a ridiculous line, or an over the top shoot out scene, there will be moments when you’ll laugh out loud. During certain scenes I genuinely felt I had time travelled to another decade, such are the nods and winks to other similar movies. It’s even set at Halloween, complete with Halloween high school horror fun house.

Maika Monroe as Anna

Maika Monroe as Anna

It would be difficult for many actors to pull off the central performance in this style of movie, but Dan Stevens is utterly (and I admit surprisingly) fantastic. He convincingly switches from mild-mannered, charming young man, who you’d happily take home to your mum, to a frighteningly dangerous psychopath. In-keeping with the genre, there are a number of scenes that end on a close up shot of his face – as if watching a ticking time bomb that will inevitably go off at any moment. In fact, there are moments where he is almost cyborg-like, turning his head in ways that immediately made me think of Robert Patrick’s T-1000. He embodies the character of David absolutely and gives a very believable performance and as the 70s/80s horror elements kick in you are in no doubt that no one is safe in his presence! I did find the film had become a little too ridiculous by the end, but its last few climatic scenes are yet another nod to the past, so I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised.

Dan Stevens like you've never seen him before!

Dan Stevens like you’ve never seen him before!

Also, shallow as it is, I can’t review the film without acknowledging how incredible Dan Stevens looks in it. A few years ago, the Downton star would have been an unlikely action movie pin-up. Not anymore. He is lean, suave and very very sexy in The Guest and the film’s makers clearly capitalise on this, as in one scene David emerges from the shower in just a towel. His American accent is pretty decent too. Maike Monroe is also very good as Anna, bringing a depth to the role that you don’t expect from the young, attractive blond, whose work as a waitress requires obvious shots of her in a sexy short outfit!

Much praise should also be given to the film’s composer Steve Moore, whose evocative music is perfect. It certainly made me think of films such as John Carpenter’s iconic Halloween and The Terminator, which is clearly the point.

The Guest is therefore a bizarre film. As a genre piece it is very good indeed, although there is a risk that some audience members may miss the whole point entirely. Personally I found it very entertaining – a great mix of action, tension, and cheesy silliness, with a brilliant performance from Dan Stevens, who will no doubt be seen in a whole new light after this film. Bond anyone? I wouldn’t say no!

The Guest will be on general release in UK cinemas from 5th September 2014 but here’s the trailer: http://youtu.be/y0E2Qh6wLS4

Advertisements

Tags: , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Solochocolatee

Si te consideras amante del chocolate, estás en blog adecuado.

Thoughts In Intervals

Tarryn Richardson

Telly Addict

I have been watching

Loitering In the Theatre

My experiences, good and bad, in London theatres.

West End Blog

Bringing you independent, honest, experienced reviews of current theatre shows. We believe theatre is something truly magical and can be enjoyed by everyone.

Mingled Yarns

Anyone who says they have only one life to live must not know how to read a book

Cultural Capital

Theatre, arts and events in London

Vickster51Corner

Theatre, Books, Food & Film/TV reviews

746 Books

Confessions of a Book Buying Addict

The Book Review Directory

Over 150 Book Reviewer Bloggers Listed

The Day - a Play

Theatre, Films, TV, Art

Cleopatra Loves Books

One reader's view

The X-Files Truth Podcast

"The following podcast is based on actual X-Files cases." Email: XFilesTruth@live.com

WEST END WANDERER

Walking my way around the west end one show at a time

Semi-Partisan Politics

A semi-biased commentary on British and American politics, culture and current affairs

mattsmoviethoughts

Movie and TV Reviews

Geeks Shall Inherit the Earth

Life, Faith and Comic Books

%d bloggers like this: