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Film Review: The Guest (2014)

A throwback to pulpy ‘80s thrillers, The Guest stars Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens as a tanned, toned, and tantalizing stranger who ingratiates himself into the home of a grieving family. Stevens’ David claims to have been a friend of the Petersons’ dead soldier son and confidently steps in to help out around the house and school, instantly charming the mother (Sheila Kelley) and impressing the awkward, teenage Luke (Brendan Meyer). The dad (Leland Orser) and daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) are slower to warm to the new addition to the family but find themselves won over soon enough. However, David’s purposes in the Petersons’ small hometown soon make themselves known as dead bodies start piling up in the lead up to Halloween.

At first a serious family drama with an ominous twist, The Guest switches tack part way through and becomes a bonkers, over-the-top, illogical, madcap, neon-tinged rampage. It’s an odd about-face that kind of works, especially with Stevens and Monroe keeping their opposing characters grounded. Stevens maintains a delightful, psychotic, murderous glint in his eye as David manipulates the Petersons and assembles a small armoury of weapons for himself, culminating in bloody shoot-outs and haunted house scares. Monroe’s Anna is the level-headed agent of reason who is first to notice anything wrong with David and to piece together his background (the reveal of which, honestly, is a bit of a letdown). Meyer, playing the youngest Peterson and looking a lot like a male Chloë Grace Moretz, is also quite good as David’s fawning mentee and patsy, but everyone else plays amplified, cartoonish archetypes that suit the style and tone of only half the movie.

Nevertheless, The Guest is an entertaining romp through ‘80s, slasher, high school, B-movie tropes backed by a killer score (and abs) and Stevens’ icy blue gaze.

Ratings (out of 5):

Directing: 3

Story: 3

Acting: 4

Dialogue: 3.5

Editing: 4

Visuals: 4

Music/Score: 4

Overall Average: 3.6

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