May 26, 2015

Movie Review: The Guest (2014)

Sometimes the best movies are the ones you find when you aren't expecting them. The Guest is an example of that. Sure, I had seen posts and such buzzing about how good it was and how everyone needs to see it, but I really wasn't buying it. Granted, I never really looked into it. I remember seeing the poster and the title and just thinking absolutely nothing of it. The poster was boring, the title seemed generic and I felt no reason to look into it any further. I guess I made a tactical mistake. The Guest is pretty fantastic. Seriously.

This is one of those "lesson learned" type films that tell me to keep my radar alert at all times. If I had taken the time to actually look into it at all, I would have discovered reasons to check it out. First off, it was directed by Adam Wingard, who directed and edited the excellent You're Next, as well as being part of the force behind the V/H/S series. Secondly, it was written by Simon Barrett, who wrote You're Next (as well as playing Tiger Mask). If I had known this was the case, I probably would have been considerably more interested from the get go. Better late than never, I guess.

As the film opens, we meet David (Dan Stevens of Downton Abbey). He gets off a bus and starts running down the road. He ends up at the home of the Petersens. He introduces himself as a recently discharged soldier who was friends with the Petersen's son, who died in the war. He is polite, ingratiating and is invited into their home. He begrudgingly takes the family up on their offer to stay. From this moment on, the Petersen family will never be the same.

David is an interesting character, he quickly becomes like another member of the family, entwining himself into their lives. With a smile and a quiet word, he immediately fits in wherever he happens to be. The thing is, if you cross him or the people he is with, be prepared for a swift comeuppance. It is in these reactions that things begin to change.

Anna Petersen (Maika Monroe of It Follows) begins to wonder about David. He is just too nice, helpful, and caring to the family. Well, there is that, but there is also the trail of battered, bruised, and dead bodies that appear in his wake. So, she does a little digging, thus setting off a chain of events you need to see.

There is a lot to like about this move. The lead performance is very good. Dan Stevens has this manner about him that just feels off, as nice as he seems to be, as helpful as he is to all members of the family, there is something not right. He is charming, menacing, funny, and downright scary as the moment calls for it. A character who only seems to move at one speed, could be described as wooden, but covers a lot of ground as a character. Just watch.

The Guest is fascinating in how it does not really explain its story. The action kind of meanders around as the story slowly comes into focus. The truth is in the untold details. It is something I am beginning to see more of, movies that show the details and tell the stories around the edges. It works very effectively here. It plays out like a budget conscious blend of Halloween, Terminator, and Universal Soldier. Seriously. It may only hint at the ultimate truth, but therein lies the magic.

There is no denying that this is a good movie. It is well crafted, well acted, and well paced. It plays everything close to the vest and never feels the need to put its story in your face. The end result is The Guest is a solid, understated film that is involving, somewhat shocking, and just a good time.

Highly Recommended.

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