Adam Wingard is gaining a bit of a reputation for directing fantastically nasty films that revel in violence and absurdity. Last years You’re Next, was a comedy horror which flipped your exceptions on their head and gave us a constant stream of gore. His follow up movie The Guest, is less of a traditional horror but embraces home invasion elements, while continuing to be a nasty film that is comfortable in it’s B movie elements.
The concept of The Guest is pretty simple, David (Dan Stevens) arrives at the door of the Peterson family, who are still struggling over the death of their son in Afghanistan. He claims to have been a friend of their son, something his appearance in a photo sitting on their mantelpiece seems to confirm and slowly ingratiates himself into the family. Becoming a drinking buddy for the dad, a shoulder to cry on for the mother, a big brother to the son and a crush to the daughter. Everything seems to be going well, until people start turning up dead.
The central premise of this film only works because Dan Stevens is intoxicating. Even as a straight man, I can’t help but admire the fact that he is a disgustingly good looking bloke and in this movie he perfects the thousand yard stare. There are moments where the camera lingers on his eyes and you are part terrified, part in love and can almost, despite being aware everything is not as it seems, understand why this family have let him into their home.
Of course, the film does descend into the ridiculous, but what makes that okay is that it is well aware of it and embraces the fact. As the violence escalates, Stevens character becomes more over the top, he looses all his humanity and embraces a cold side that seems to enjoy the violence. The movie then takes a full blown twist into Halloween style slasher as it’s final act takes place within a Halloween party maze, held in a local school hall. It’s the final tongue in cheek moment, that confirms this film knows exactly what it is.
If you haven’t guessed I really liked The Guest. I also may have developed a bit of a crush on Dan Stevens, but we will just ignore that. It is the second movie that I have seen in recent weeks, after the brilliantly entertaining Lucy, that accepts from the outset that it is not high art, but rather something to entertain and by doing so, insures that it becomes a movie well worth your time.