The Guest

Movies, Thriller
4 out of 5 stars
The Guest

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

One suspects obsessive fans of actor Dan Stevens’s ill-fated Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey would be content to see him play nothing but rakish, tweed-waistcoated aristocrats until the end of his days. For the rest of us, the genuinely surprising new side he shows in Adam Wingard’s sharp retro-thriller is a welcome change. Those blandly blond good looks (here accessorized with an apple-pie American accent) are put to suitably sinister use: The character is supposed to be faintly unidentifiable, a walking cipher who keeps any personality just out of reach behind a veneer of pleasantness.

Only sullen teen Anna (the excellent Monroe, making a strong claim to scream-queen status with this and the upcoming It Follows) senses something amiss when David (Stevens) shows up on her family’s doorstep in sleepy New Mexico, breaking the fog of mourning that has descended on the household ever since eldest son Caleb was killed on duty in Iraq. David claims to have been their boy’s best friend, an alibi that secures him an open-ended invitation to stay from Anna’s parents. His military credentials are plausible enough: He puts his fighting training to bone-cracking use against the high-school bullies of Anna’s younger brother. But when a suspicious Anna begins snooping and is informed by the army that “David” is actually dead, nobody wants to listen.

Wingard, a formidable new name in horror who previously brought us the nifty You’re Next, coolly lets things escalate from there to a state of delirious violence—it’s a compulsively absurd tale fashioned as a kind of extreme allegory for the effects of grief-induced displacement. Mostly, though, the movie is an effectively bloody, breakneck ride, given an extra coat of gloss by the John Carpenter–influenced 1980s styling that is currently all the rage in the genre. The Guest is nothing new, but Wingard knows exactly which buttons to push and hits them with gusto. Stevens, meanwhile, has never been better; Downton would have been a lot livelier with him in this state.

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Details

Release details

Rated:
R
Release date:
Wednesday September 17 2014
Duration:
99 mins

Cast and crew

Director:
Adam Wingard
Screenwriter:
Simon Barrett
Cast:
Ethan Embry
Dan Stevens
Maika Monroe

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