Director: Adam Wingard
Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brenda Meyer
Watch The Guest online in the UK: Amazon Prime / TalkTalk TV / iTunes / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
“Mrs. Peterson?” asks the stranger on her doorstep, after ringing the bell. “My name’s David, I knew your son.”
If alarm bells haven’t started ringing yet, they soon will. After all, has there ever been a doorbell rung by a stranger looking to stay the night that hasn’t ended badly? The Guest plays on those genre conventions with a wink – along with any other conventions it can find too.
And so David inserts himself into the bereaved family’s life, befriending young loner Luke (Brendan Meyer) and taking the breath away from his sister, Anna (Maika Monroe). Even the suspicious mum and dad are won over by his charms and talk of how well he knew their son. But this is a film by You’re Next director Adam Wingard (and scripted by the film’s writer, Simon Barrett), so the usual plot points are nudged to dark extremes: when Anna swoons over David, she does so with his top off, his torso dripping with steam; when he meets her friends, he doesn’t hesitate to jump into bed; and when he teaches Luke to stand up for himself, he does so with a plank of a wood smacked across someone’s head.
Stevens delivers it all with a manic grin, veering wildly from photogenic charm to psychotic chills; the kind of man you could see playing James Bond – you know, if 007 were a violent sadist with a taste for younger women. But for all the leading man’s suave sadism, the nastier he gets, the more generic The Guest becomes.
The knowing trash turns into clumsy conspiracy thrills, while the arched claustrophobia gives way to unrestrained silliness – a treat, given the 70s-style fun house final act, but a disappointment, following the tension of the opening half. Steve Moore’s soundtrack keeps the pace up with its synth pulse, but for all the retro sheen, compared to the similar-sounding Drive – or the unpredictable shocks of You’re Next – the result lacks enough edge or substance to stick in the mind. The Guest may not enjoy a permanent stay in your memory, but it still offers a fun one night stand.
The Guest is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a £5.99 monthly subscription.
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