By Max Havey
The Guest is quite possibly the most endearing slasher film ever made.
Dan Stevens plays a man named David, who comes to a family’s New Mexico home claiming to be a comrade of their son that had recently died in the war. David charm’s the family and they allow him to stay with them for as long as he needs. While there, David helps solve some of the family’s problems, but the rather brutal and unorthodox ways he goes about doing so starts to raise suspicion that David may not be who he says he is.
The Guest feels very much like an 80’s horror film. In a Q&A following the screening I saw of the film, the film’s writer, Simon Barret said, “The film was heavily inspired by the Reagan Era, post-Halloween films like The Stepfather, where authority figure are oblivious to what is going on and the kids are the only ones who understand.” IT also does not take itself seriously in any way, shape or form. The soundtrack is laced with all sorts of techno-rock that feels like it would have fit right in during the ’80s. During a particular fight scene, the music sounds almost like it wa ripped straight from a level of Mortal Kombat.
The real gem of this film is Dan Stevens, who most viewers last saw dying at the end of season three of Downton Abbey. Here, he brings an incredible charm and enthusiasm to a character that most, myself included, would consider a psychopath. THough his character is most definitely the villain of this film and inherently evil, he is still undeniably lkelable. THis likeability comes from Stevens’ ability to change his character’s emotion on a dime. At one moment he is a cordial gentlemen, the next he is trying to kill you and then suddenly returns to being cordial. His performance adds to the fun of the whole film.
Director Adam Wingard and Simon Barret have collaborated a number of films together of this sort. Before The Guest, their most recent film was 2013’s “mumblegore” hit You’re Next, which was coincidentally filmed in Columbia, MO. They have experience in making accessible horror films that are equally scary as they are funny. I wouldn’t even consider the guest a horror film. It is more of an action thriller with very comedic elements.
I had no expectations coming into The Guest. The previews made it seem like the kind of action film I usually avoid, but I wound up thoroughly enjoying myself. It is pretty likely that most people missed out on this film, even though it garnered generally positive reviews. I have a feeling that this is one of those movies that will eventually become a hidden gem on Netflix. IF you like action movies, ’80s slasher flicks or Dan Stevens, The Guest is absolutely worth the watch. Even if you don’t like these kinds of films, give it a shot. You may be surprised.