Friday, October 17, 2014

Movie Review: "The Guest" (2014)

Movie"The Guest"
Director: Adam Wingard
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes
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An Afghanistan war veteran named David (Dan Stevens) shows up at the Peterson's house claiming to be a friend of their son who was killed in action. Laura Peterson (Sheila Kelley) who is grieving easily trust him as he is pictured with her son in a photo on the mantle. When she learns he has no place to sleep she invites him to stay with them. David is extremely charming and quickly befriends Laura's husband Spencer (Leland Orser) and her kids Luke (Brendan Meyer) and Anna (Maika Monroe). David may not be quite what he seems as he is prone to the occasional violent outburst. When people in town start to turn up dead Anna starts to suspect David has something to do with it and he's not who he says he is. 

Dan Stevens sure is making a bigger name for myself than I thought he would.

"The Guest" was quite a surprise to us and we liked it more than we were anticipating. It starts innocently enough, with David, played devilishly by "Downton Abbey" alum Dan Stevens, returning from Afghanistan and directly visiting the family of his friend and fellow soldier under the guise of giving a message to their fallen son and brother. Any grieving mother would hang on the idea that her son had given a message to a friend to relay upon his death, so easily, David is able to worm his way into the hearts and lives of the Peterson family without any protestation at first. Slowly but surely, David's layers begin to get peeled back and you're never quite sure what he's going to do next. It is in these moments of uncertainty where Stevens is allowed to perform at his best, going from virtuous, mysterious and sexy to menacing, stone-faced and downright insane.

From the trailers alone, we were a bit mislead by this movie, but in a good way. It was quite different than we expected in that it seemed like David was deliberately trying to deceive the Peterson's in order to take advantage of them in some way. It seemed like he was destined to become an unwanted guest and that he would, in turn, end up trying to take the place of their dead family member, torturing those that got in his way. The film actually begins quite differently. At first, David is helpful to the family. From driving Luke to school to listening to Spencer vent about his work problems, David forms a bond with each member of the Peterson clan. He even goes as far as helping Luke deal with bullies at school. All of these "helpful" acts are done for a reason and were carried out even if it meant intentional deception or even violence were used to get his point across. If it weren't for Anna digging into his past, David probably would have moved right along to the next unsuspecting place. A lot of effort is put into character building so that we as the audience get to know and trust David along with the Peterson's. We actually grow to like David as a character and he gives no real indication of his true potential until the latter quarter of the film. This all leads to the ultimate climactic showdown where David unleashes his full wrath.

What we ended up watching was a thrilling and action packed ride that was a moderate nail-biter. It is centered around Halloween and the level of violence, as well as its electo-synth-pop score make it reminiscent of a 70's or 80's horror picture. There is even an homage to "Halloween 3" in the background at the school dance towards the end of the movie. All in all, it was a fun and intense viewing experience that we look forward to watching again in the future.

My Rating: 8/10
BigJ's Rating: 7.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.7/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 93%
Do we recommend this movie: Yes!

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