DVD REVIEW: THE GUEST / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: ADAM WINGARD / SCREENPLAY: SIMON BARRETT / STARRING: DAN STEVENS, MAIKA MONROE, BRENDAN MEYER, SHEILA KELLEY / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
Having made a name for themselves in the horror genre with their work on V/H/S 2 and You’re Next, you wouldn’t be blamed for thinking that director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett would look to further their mark in the genre with their follow up film. And while The Guest does stray a little into that territory, it’s very much a different beast.
The film tells the story of “David”, an ex-soldier who follows up on a promise and arrives at the home of a fallen comrade to check in on them and offer a helping hand. Welcomed into the Peterson family, “David” fills a void that has been missing in the family since their eldest son was killed. But as a series of deaths begin to occur around town, questions begin to surround whether or not “David” is actually who he claims to be.
Following in the footsteps of Drive, The Guest feels very much like a seventies exploitation film playing out in a weirdly timeless contemporary setting. It’s a feel that works to the films advantage, giving it an oddly surreal realism that is both wonderfully stupid and firmly grounded. It’s the kind of film you could imagine John Carpenter would have made back in the early days of his career.
The film is sharply written and directed, with a great flair for style and substance and a score that (much like Drive) takes on a life and character all of its own. The cast keep the tone perfectly by both playing it straight whilst having fun with their roles. In particular both Maika Monroe and Brendan Meyer, as the Peterson children, give perfectly pitched performances, whilst the always fantastic Leland Orser and Sheila Kelley add a subtle mix of comic tragedy to their roles as the oddly detached parents.
The real stand out of this film though, is in the brilliance of casting Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens as “David”. Stevens shines in the role, turning in a performance that is equally likeable, terrifying and funny, completely stepping out of the shadows of the Matthew Crawley character that brought him to the world’s attention. It’s upon seeing him in this that you can start to see where they were coming from when his name was put out there as a possible heir to the role of Snake Plissken.
Overall, this is the kind of film that will split audiences down the middle in the best possible way, with your enjoyment largely boiling down to your willingness to go along with its mixed tone and frankly surreal brilliance. And if you are, this may just end up being your new favourite cult movie!