Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s latest feature since You’re Next is similarly dark-tinged thriller, that is completely self-aware without ever being over indulgent.
The Peterson family are still recovering from the death of eldest son Caleb, who was killed on a tour of duty in Afghanistan. Mama Peterson (Sheila Kelley) sits around wistfully thinking about her son, whilst Papa Peterson (Leland Orser) struggles with bureaucracy at his job. The youngest son Luke (Brenden Meyer) is quiet and picked upon by his peers in high school, whilst his big sister, Anna (Maika Monroe) has a problematic relationship with an older boy. What they need is Mary Poppins! What they get is David, played by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, a former soldier who knew Caleb and wants to fulfill a promise he made to the deceased veteran. Turning up on the Peterson doorstep out of the blue, David slowly, but effortlessly, integrates himself into their lives.
An obvious and joyful throwback to the exploitation thrillers of yesteryear, The Guest is a schlocky, violent midnight movie suitable for any time of day. Start the day the right way with The Guest. As David gets his feet under the table, the family see their luck changing. Did someone say Dad got a promotion? Excellent. Shame about the double suicide of his colleague and their wife, but still… Winning! What’s that, little Luke? You’re getting picked on! Let your new Uncle David take you for a drink.
Not taking into account the skillful direction and killer soundtrack, the key to The Guest’s success is Stevens who manages to flip flop between homicidal maniac and housekeeper effortlessly whilst managing it to make it look incredibly sexy and cool. Coupled with what is becoming a uniformly excellent performance by Monroe, it’s incredibly hard not to fall for this film.
Yes, it’s all absurd. However, don’t think no one onboard is not in on the joke. The Guest knows what it’s doing.