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SXSW 2014: ‘The Guest’ delights with thrills, violence, and a charming sociopath

dan-stevens-the-guest

The Guest
Written by Simon Barrett
Directed by Adam Wingard
USA, 2014

From the writer and director of sleeper hit, You’re Next, Simon Barrett  and Adam Wingard bring another energetic crowd pleaser. The Guest makes for a great midnight movie, playing like an old-fashioned action/slasher thriller that features a twisted, creepy, but incredibly likable killer. Underlined by a great score that carries hints of John Carpenter’s Halloween series, this imperfect but enjoyable film creeps as equally as it does delight.

As the Petersons, a New Mexico family, go about their daily lives after the death of their fallen Army son Caleb, David (Dan Stevens) shows up at their doorsteps. He claims to be a close friend of Caleb’s, and his charm and good manners quickly insinuate himself into the household. However, David is prone to sudden violence and keeping secrets. The former is his limited way in solving his host family’s various problems, ranging from boys bullying Luke (Brendan Meyer) to unwanted guests at a party, but Anna (Maika Monroe)  is wary.

Eventually as it often does, his secrets begin to unravel. His motives and the larger conspiracy comes off as contrived and tacked on. It’s hand waved away by CID agent Carver (Lance Reddick) in a line or two. For a film built around David’s mystery, the payoff is not the least satisfying. It is a means to an end and an excuse for the movie to get to the real meat of it; the scenes of David’s violence are fun and brutal. The score, created with genuine synthesizers, gives the modern thriller a sense of dread while also giving nods to older films in a similar vein.

Although devolving into a typical thriller climax (but twist ending), The Guest, taken for what it is, is fun, creepy, and everything a fan would want from an old school midnight thriller.

 

 


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