In every good film, a dramatic shift occurs near the beginning to completely shake up the old world that the characters live in. Whether it be a simple letter from a long lost relative or news of a forthcoming wedding, this single moment forces the characters we’re watching to make a decision — step into the new world…or get lost in the old one. In the instance of The Guest, the Peterson family would have probably been better off staying put.
Directed by Adam Wingard, The Guest centers on the tragic events that occur after the Peterson family welcome a mysterious guest into their home. After their oldest son Caleb dies during military service, Laura (Sheila Kelley), Spencer (Leland Orser) and their two children Anna (Maika Monroe) and Luke (Brendan Meyer), are struggling to come to terms with his sudden death. One day, a stranger named David Collins (Dan Stevens) appears at their door claiming to have become close friends with Caleb while serving together in the army. Laura immediately warms to David, inviting him to spend a few days with the family until he figures out his next move.
Stevens is almost unrecognisable in this role, coming off as fiercely intelligent and calculated whilst radiating a Southern charm and warmth that gave me chills. Primarily known for this work as Matthew Crawley in Downton Abbey, Stevens’ turn in this outstanding thriller couldn’t come as more of a pleasant shock for audiences. Not only did the actor show his commitment by working out four hours a day leading up to the shoot, but his accent, demeanor and overall presence demonstrated the kind of skill only the best of the best possess.
As the film progresses we see David make nice with the Petersons, ensuring to tell each and every one of them how much Caleb loved them. And as each of the family members spill their individual life grievances, you can’t help but notice that behind David’s amused reactions and concerned looks, is a diabolical plan beginning to hatch. This becomes evident during a particularly humorous scene involving a few punk teenage boys, a bar, a broken beer bottle and a pool stick. Needless to say David makes it out on top every time, leaving the younger Peterson starry eyed in his wake.
David seems to have won over Laura, Luke and even Spencer, after the man of the house spills work secrets over a few too many beers. However, at the tender age of 20, Anna is less than impressed with David bursting into her family’s lives and bringing up old memories of the deceased son they lost. Though she lets her guard down to swoon for all of five minutes over his topless post-shower body, Anna is too quick to miss those all-important giveaways, especially when one of her friends winds up dead and her deadbeat boyfriend is framed for the crime. The insightful Anna is quick to look into David’s past, and what she finds is more shocking than her smitten family are capable of handling.
What her search leads to kind of gives the final act away so I’ll skip the spoilers and simply urge all SpicyPulpers to watch this film with haste. From Robby Baumgartner’s brilliant cinematography to the chilling soundtrack which left me feeling uneasy at all the right moments, The Guest impressed in every possible way, cementing Wingard as a master of his craft, and Stevens as Hollywood’s hottest leading man. Keep your eyes peeled for Miss Monroe too, who walks the line between ingenue and fearless fighter with ease.
The Guest is currently showing in cinemas in the UK, and will receive a wide release in the US on September 17. Stay tuned for NZ and Australia release dates.