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The Guest serves as Downton Abbey‘s Dan Stevens’ first foray into American cinema, uniting with You’re Next director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett for a cool, compelling 80s style thriller.
David Collins (Stevens) is an ex-soldier who arrives on the doorstep of the Petersen family, claiming to have known their oldest son who died serving their nation. After some reservations, David is accepted by the family, helping them with their problems, including dealing with youngest son Luke’s (Brendan Meyer) bullies. But daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) grows suspicious about David’s real identity as many strange events happen in the small desert town.
The Guest has a perfect blend of actor and director: both Stevens and Wingard make each other stronger. Stevens gave a great performance as David, a mysterious figure who leaves you constantly questioning what his motives are. David is a cold and calculating figure who is constantly planning and has a skill for violence, but there is also a charming quality to him. He is a very polite figure who has a strange code of loyalty. He has sexual tension with Anna and Stevens has excellent comic timing, working brilliantly for Wingard’s and Barrett’s dark sense of humor.
Wingard does a fantastic job directing The Guest. He brings an 80s aesthetic to The Guest, using dark lighting, a synthesized soundtrack, the set designing in the house and bar and the title card has a neon look. His experience as a horror director is evident during the climax and he captures violent shootouts and fight scenes effectively.
Succeeding as a visualist, Wingard keeps a tense atmosphere throughout the movie. There is a feeling that something is going to boil over at any given time due to Stevens’ performance and the cold and thoughtful direction. Wingard knows how to feel to add to the tension, having a slow build-up with the soundtrack, a glance to add to an awkward moment or to add to the sexual tension between David and Anna.
The Guest does share some basic plot lines with Park Chan-wook’s first American movie Stoker. Both are deliberately cold and meticulous flicks where every shot was carefully planned. But while Stoker was an art-house coming-of-age story, The Guest takes an unabashed pulpy route of action and violence and Wingard ratchets up the events into more crazy ways as David’s secret is discovered. The Guest works as a family drama as much as it does as a thriller as the family struggles with their problems and David in his unique way helps them.
The Guest is a fast paced, entertaining thriller that showcases the strengths and talents of its director, writer and its star. This is one lean, mean film.