Release Date: September 17, 2014
Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick
Director: Adam Wingard
Studio: HanWay Films, Snoot Entertainment
Genre(s): Psychological thriller
I’ll be the first to admit, when I saw this movie’s trailer I seriously questioned the director’s choices. Dan Stevens? Not only had I felt a little betrayed when Stevens left Downton Abbey two years ago in favor of Hollywood, but I’d say that with the lead’s exit from the show, the show itself has slipped a little. As a fan, I was crushed, and found myself in a weird place with Mr. Dan Stevens. The Guest is the first big title he has been in since Downton. So, I went into this movie with a very heavy bias against it.
And I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised.
Watching Stevens play a charmingly wicked character was hypnotic since I had known him so long as Matthew Crawley, sweet and just English lawyer turned lord. He clearly throws himself into the character, speaking in a thick Southern drawl and sporting a lean muscular frame that boasts a six-pack. It is clear from start to finish that Dan Stevens is not a one trick pony.
He does a complete 180 on his previous role and makes himself into a memorable main character of a quirky, violent black comedy movie.
Director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett both bring out a highly stylized vision of a thriller, bringing a visual palette that reminds the viewer of 80’s grindhouse exploitation films. It feels more like an homage to those classic thrillers than a dupe, and plays a high-energy soundtrack that features synthesizers and electronic beats with haunting voices. The whole movie feels like a thrill ride, and you can’t help but be lured in.
The story tells of a family who has recently lost their eldest son Caleb in the army. They are visited by a man named David, claiming to be Caleb’s friend, here to fulfill a promise he made to Caleb to look after his family. Although initially cautious, soon the entire family warms up to David, including Caleb’s younger sister and brother, Anna and Luke. However, things soon turn sour as people in the town turn up dead. Anna investigates and finds out something is awry with David’s identity.
The movie does a good job of playing around with who David really is. He’s charming and smiles one minute then stoic and cold the next. There is no doubt he’s lost a good part of his sanity, but at the same time he makes you want to believe that he might be better than what the truth is. Maika Monroe delivers a great performance as a cautious Anna, who unravels David’s lies while trying to convince her family of David’s persona.
Honestly Simon Barrett’s writing joined with Adam Wingard’s directing is the cherry on top of the cake, matching humor with violence perfectly, while keeping the tone of the movie. They made a great casting choice, taking a big risk bringing Dan Stevens on as a lead and ultimately succeeding.
Final Thoughts: This is a successfully enjoyable and fun movie! The music and aesthetic bring the movie to life and create a beautiful illusion that pays homage to the classic thrillers of the 80’s. Dan Stevens delivers a killer performance and is not to be missed in this unique and exciting film.