This film comes from the makers of the recent ‘horror’ movie “You’re Next”, which while slightly odd, was very enjoyable and exceptionally entertaining. As a result, I had high expectations going into “The Guest”, because I knew that it was in good hands, the trailer was decent, and that it had an interesting premise. I’m glad to say that those expectations were not only met, but exceeded, with one of the best films of the summer. “You’re Next” had action, humour and gore, and all those things return in abundance in “The Guest”.
The trailer for “The Guest” was quite good and it did grab my attention, but it really doesn’t do justice to how good the movie actually is, or give away the story of the film. I feel as though that’s intentional after seeing both this film and “You’re Next”, because they both hide the fact that there is much more going on than meets the eye, and they use that to their advantage as the audience doesn’t know whether to laugh or be repulsed by what’s happening on screen. These movies can’t be confined to one particular genre and they are utterly odd, so to give away their tone in the trailer would be such a shame, and possibly ruin them. There’s a real dark humour in “The Guest”, a humour which I enjoy much more than the tedious crudity of most comedic films. The trailer doesn’t show just how important that humour will be to the overall feel of the film, which really makes the film that bit more enjoyable. There would’ve been plenty of people who went to see this movie in a theatre without knowing exactly what they were in for, and the idea of those people questioning what they were meant to take from the film, (and walking out confused), is just brilliant.
Before the movie started I was chatting to my brother about his expectations, and he said that he didn’t think that it would be great, but that I was going to like it because I was so determined to. However, by the time the credits rolled we were both in agreement that we loved “The Guest”, and that the filmmakers had achieved exactly what they would’ve hoped to with this movie. This kind of film is never going to be a box-office hit or an Oscars contender, but I don’t believe for a second that the director or the writers were hoping for that kind of reception. Films like “The Guest” make me happy to love cinema, because it doesn’t feel like it’s been made to milk an ignorant audience for money. This movie feels fresh, fun, and different; it could’ve been a boring story about post-traumatic stress disorder and taken itself far too seriously, all the pieces were there, but instead it attempts to be original, giving audiences something fresh and interesting in exchange for their money, which I think is pretty admirable.
“The Guest” revolves around David (Dan Stevens), a returning soldier who decides to visit the family of one of his fallen compatriots, Caleb Peterson, in order to do anything he can for them and to offer his condolences. That sounds innocent enough, but when you know what this film aims to be you know that there is much more going on behind the scenes. David is welcomed into the family’s home by Laura Peterson (Sheila Kelley) the mother of his former comrade, and he makes himself at home right away. You always feel that there is some sort of strangeness to him, and you never feel good about his agenda, but at the same time you can’t help but like him and understand why the family would like having him around. He’s polite, unassuming, and the family has a photograph in their house in which he and Caleb are together, so they have every reason to trust him. As the film progresses David endears himself to each member of the family, Anna (Maika Monroe), Luke (Brendan Meyer), Laura and Spencer (Leland Orser), showing that he can project a number of different qualities depending on which member of the family he’s around. However, things begin to unravel as Anna becomes suspicious of David’s real identity, and at that point this movie becomes delightfully menacing and absolutely fantastic.
“The Guest” has a very entertaining build up, as we question what David’s real motives are and get to know his character through a series of hilarious reveals. From the moment that David’s true nature is revealed things become fast and furious, and that continues right until the very end (which fittingly takes place in a Halloween maze and a house of mirrors, with fire, knives, guns and murder). The movie did move forward slightly quickly from the suggestions of ‘this guy is a bit dodgy’, to ‘this guy is a killing machine’, but I felt that this was an intentional move on the part of the writers and the director, because David is a man who can see red and become a monster in the blinking of an eye.
(SPOILER ALERT) David’s violent moments are relatively understandable for the first half of the movie, as he defends Luke from bullies and attacks a former boyfriend of Kristen, one of Anna’s friends that David meets at a party (played by Tabatha Shaun). Things take a dark turn at the halfway point of this film, as David attempts to obtain a set of guns from a dealer at the lowest possible price. At that point the build up is officially over as we see David for what he actually is, a cold-blooded killer with no remorse, who has no problem telling his victims ‘I am going to kill you’. When David says that, it isn’t just to make the audience laugh, he’s effectively telling the audience that this is who he is; the moment you’ve been waiting for has arrived and things are going to get messy.
Even when brutal killings are taking place on screen you just can’t stop laughing, because David is so blasé about his actions and awful things are happening in such a novel way, but you can also appreciate how vicious the killings are, because they feel raw and powerful and add a sense of authenticity to events. I hate that films are so afraid to show murderers for who they are, because a killer wouldn’t stand over his victim and deliver a final monologue, or tentatively stab at his prey, he would do what he had to do and move on, because you don’t mean anything to him, and that’s what David is all about.
All the performances in “The Guest” were great, particularly Dan Stevens’ which was just fantastic. He was threatening, efficient and ice cold, but also very funny in his delivery and in how nonchalant he was about all his actions. As someone asked him to ‘stay another night’ or ‘have another beer’ you could really see the cogs turning in his head, and it felt as though you were watching a real person, rather than an actor portraying a character on screen. His part in this film deserves real praise, because I don’t think that there are many big-name actors who could’ve pulled off his nuanced performance quite so convincingly, and even if you don’t like the film you will remember him. Maika Monroe was also very good as Anna Peterson; as the second lead in this movie it really feels as though she understood what the director was asking of her and gave it her all. She managed to be likeable and entertaining, despite the fact that for at least half the movie she was directly opposed to David, who you were always routing for.
Not only does “The Guest” have its own tone and self-awareness, but it also pays homage to films like “Halloween” and “Friday The 13th”, particularly when you consider the soundtrack and the seemingly indestructible leading character. If you take the humour away from this movie then it could become a conventional slasher film, and there are moments at which that’s exactly what it feels like. “The Guest” is a movie which takes so much from different films and genres, with horror elements and comedy throughout, and even a little bit of sci-fi intrigue at certain points, but despite that it remains completely unique, which is the biggest compliment I can give it.
As far as I’m concerned this is one of the best films of the summer and I would highly recommend it. “The Guest” is brilliant because it has its own style and is executed perfectly, with brilliant performances and extremely likeable characters. I can’t pick out any negatives from this movie, and as I read this review back I realise that I haven’t, which gives a clear indication of how I felt about it. However, whether or not you can enjoy “The Guest” is a matter of taste and sadly I doubt that it will ever receive universal approval, because if you don’t think that murderers can be funny then you probably won’t get it.