Thursday, January 29, 2015

Movie Review: The Guest (2014)

Usually when I'm watching a new film that I plan to review for my blog, I like to take little notes that might help me with the review later. A funny line to remember here, a cool kill or special effect there. When I sat down to watch The Guest, I had my notebook out and ready to go - and I didn't write a single word. I could not force myself to take my eyes off the screen for that long.

A man named David arrives one day at the home of the Peterson family, claiming to be a military friend of their son who died overseas. David quickly befriends the family and includes himself in their lives, but something is obviously not right with him... and daughter Anna soon becomes very suspicious of this seemingly perfect houseguest.

Right from the beginning, the movie doesn't fuck around with the usual plot pleasantries. There are no opening credits, just a short starting shot, and then "The Guest" in large purple-bluish letters (odd color choice) with ominous music underneath. Two minutes into the movie, the doorbell rings and the audience is introduced to the guest in question, David. From then on, the movie burns at a sort of slow pace, with just enough humor and pops of action to keep the audience watching and waiting for what they know is probably going to be something really awesome at the climax. Of course I knew to expect something awesome because The Guest comes to us courtesy of my current favorite filmmaking duo, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. I promise to stop talking about how much I love them when they stop making awesome films. Which is hopefully never.

Actor Dan Steven expertly plays David. Stevens brings to David that brilliant combination of charming, chilling, and creepy. Some of this comes out from Barrett's dialogue, but it is also aided by Stevens' piercing blue eyes and chiseled good looks. He plays the role calmly but with immense control at the same time - able to completely change his demeanor with a simple tic of his mouth or flick of his eyes. In his action scenes he barely has to move, but still causes a lot of damage, which is what makes these scenes a lot of fun.

The Peterson family is also a nice combination of veterans and newcomers who all bring something to the table for their individual roles. Sheila Kelley and Leland Orser (both of whom I knew only by face and not name before this) are the parents, Laura and Spencer. Laura is grieving and therefore too trusting of David, and Spencer is the skeptical one - but only at first. After he finally trusts David, all of his lines seem to be about having a drink with him. Friendless son Luke is played by Brendan Meyer, and Maika Monroe as Anna is really the one who carries most of the film, and she does it well. The only problem is that the two siblings don't really have that much contact through most of the film, which becomes a slight flaw by the conclusion.

What really drives the movie, possibly even more than the performances, is the soundtrack. I admittedly don't have that great of an ear for music, but it would be hard for anyone to ignore the beats that wonderfully accompany many scenes in The Guest. Where other horror films would have creepy piano music, or where an action movie might have the latest popular radio tune, the music here is funky and electronic, with an 80s vibe that really shouldn't fit in with the story but somehow does. It was weird and different, and was strangely what pulled me more into some scenes that otherwise might have been boring.

The Guest is completely not what you think it is going to be. The plot is as simple as it presents itself to be, but with the film laid out much like a horror film (with plenty of action thrown in there) you'll probably be looking into reasons and motivations a lot more than you need to. I know I was. I dared to look on IMDb to see the consensus view on this film and almost all the posts seem to be of the "worst movie ever!!!" variety, so maybe The Guest is one of those movies that will not affect everyone in the same way. I found it to be a pretty slick and cool tale from two filmmakers who manage to once again take our expectations and turn them on their head.

Sidenote: Near the end of the film, in the Halloween maze, did it say "You're next" on the wall? I only saw "you're" and it seemed like it was written similarly to how it was in the movie You're Next, which is a nice nod to Wingard and Barrett's previous film, obviously. Very fun.


  1. This blew my mind. I loved it. Plus that soundtrack was amazing

    1. The soundtrack was so epic - definitely a stand out from what many other movies do.

  2. The soundtrack to this was very much 80s and John Carpenter-ish! I kinda figured the end out (after having watched) "You're Next", I kinda knew something like that would happen. LOL.

    Michelle! You and I have to talk! They're remaking "Poltergeist"! I must have your opinion on this!

    1. Though they have decided to tread upon my most beloved horror film, I'm still not opposed to remakes at all. I still don't really WANT to like the Poltergeist remake, though. The recent trailer that came out was slightly promising because it seems like they at least tried to recreate certain iconic points of the movie. However, I just KNOW that they will never be able to recreate the original's charm from the comedy and the characters.