Directed by Adam Wingard
Starring Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick
This weekend, I had the pleasure of watching Adam Wingard’s film The Guest (2014) at the Gulbenkian cinema on the University of Kent campus.
At first glance the film seems no more than a generic story centred on the overused cliché of the ‘mysterious guest who is not what they seem’ plotline. Yet like Dan Stevens’ character in the movie, underneath the perfect features and toned body is so much more than we expect. Dan Stevens, better known as Matthew Crawley in ITV’s popular TV series Downton Abbey, plays a man recently discharged from the army who drops in on the Peterson family, claiming to be a colleague of their dead son.
Taking place just before Halloween, the first half of this thriller/horror/action flick is spent meticulously building up the tension and drama, making way for the second half’s explosion of blood, bullets and, well, more explosions. Stevens is excellent in his role as the mysterious, sexy, muscular, charming and handsome man with the trained expertise of an assassin and the indestructible body of a Terminator. The other actors and actresses, including Maika Monroe, Lance Reddick and Brendan Meyer, dazzle in their performances as well – making the most of their not-as-spectacular characters and bringing forth believability that might have otherwise alluded the less talented and trained.
The brilliance of this movie is the sheer simplicity of it. Wingard takes potential B-grade movie material and executes it with such flair and grace that it evolves into an A-grade movie. For a small budget film, the action pieces were surprisingly intense and exciting to watch, at times putting other big budget movies to shame. Perfectly paced and wonderfully edited, his directing is simple and tight, choosing instead to focus on the characters themselves rather than the story.
Perhaps this is why a complaint some might have is the ending of the movie which is left open to the imagination of the audience. Stevens’ character’s backstory could have been further elaborated as well. For a character with so much presence and personality, his background is often hinted at but never made clear. Likewise is the deceased Peterson son, while whose name is dropped often in the movie, is never developed further beyond his name.
Although perhaps not the greatest horror film ever made, The Guest is nevertheless a solid and enjoyable film that should be viewed given the next opportunity. Wingard has crafted a stylistic, brutally elegant film that harks back to the glory days of horror films (Halloween, The Cabin in the Woods), proving that the horror genre is as deserving of a good narrative and a solid direction as any other genre in the film industry.