Saturday, 19 September 2015

Film Review: The Guest

The Guest is an American horror thriller from director Adam Wingard (You're Next). Starring Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) and Maika Monroe (It Follows), The Guest is an unexpected low-budget delight that'll keep you guessing until the very end. 

Stevens plays an army veteran, David, who arrives on the doorstep of the Peterson family. Still coping the death of their son Caleb, the Peterson family are surprised to hear that David served alongside Caleb in the armed forces. In need of a place to live, David fills the void that Caleb left behind and his brief stay with the family soon grows into something longer and more involved.

However, eldest daughter Anna (Monroe) isn't convinced that David is who he says he is. After a couple of altercations between David and Anna's friends ends in violence, she begins to look into David's past - only to discover a dark secret.

Goofy, or ingenious? This was the question I was toying with throughout the entirety of The Guest. I finally settled on the conclusion that it was in fact both, an ingeniously goofy film that really subverts your expectations going in. The thing about this film is how varied the tone is, and how many different genres it traverses.

Is it an action, a thriller, or a horror? In truth, it's a hybrid of all of these, with elements of sci-fi techno conspiracy thrown in. It's a volatile mix, but not one that blows up in Wingard's face. Somehow everything ties together really nicely; the film doesn't take itself too seriously with Simon Barrett's screenplay embracing all sorts of shamelessly silly sensibilities.

The film even dips into slasher territory in the third act; one sequence set inside a Halloween hall of mirrors is gleefully gory. Honestly, don't go into this film expecting something straight-faced - The Guest is more likely to entertain someone who loves classic 80's horror movies and can laugh along at with the tongue-in-cheek jabs and references the film serves up. Over the course of the movie, The Guest evolves from this more simplistic mystery to a full-blown genre film love letter in the mould of Drive or It Follows. These comparisons are exacerbated by the sizzling soundtrack which is loaded with some gorgeous 80's synth vibes.

Stevens and Monroe make for a great lead pairing, both giving performances that embrace the retro style of the film. Brenden Mayer (who plays Anna's younger brother, Luke) should also get props for his performance.

However, the real star of the show is Wingard's work behind the camera. This is a really great looking film, all heavy contrast and rich colours. The action scenes are framed wonderfully, and the tonal shifts never feel jarring if you're ready to welcome the wackiness into your viewing. It might not have the staying power of something like Drive, another 80's homage that this film simply cannot avoid comparisons with, but The Guest does have a lot to offer fans of film and film-making.

The Verdict: 8.5/10

An unashamedly silly genre film with all the trimmings, The Guest has fingers in all sorts of pies. Stevens makes for a compelling and chiseled lead, whilst Monroe is also great. Wingard is excellent, as is the kickass soundtrack.

The Guest is available on DVD and Blu-ray now. 

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