When You’re Next arrived in 2011, we marveled at the talents of director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett with their wildly original home invasion thriller. They’re back with The Guest and this thriller, starring Dan Stevens, is more of a life invasion movie that is beyond electric and compelling and a million other adjectives we could list!
Stevens (soon to also be seen in A Walk Among the Tombstones) stars as David, a war veteran returning from the Middle East who lands at the rural doorstep of the Petersons' home looking to pay respects to the family of his good friend who died beside him in battle.
They immediately take him in as he is the only connection they have to their lost son and brother. Given that he’s recently returned from the front lines, he has no immediate plans and nowhere to go, so staying with the Petersons for a few days is simply perfect.
As you can see from The Guest trailer, David slowly but surely embeds himself into their lives. He befriends their teenage son Luke (Brendan Meyer) and teaches him a thing or two about standing up for himself as well as following his dreams, however different they may be. The guest also joins the Petersons' 20-year-old daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) at a party and shows he’s someone who can be an understanding support system where there is none… and maybe even more.
Surely David has ingrained himself in the Petersons' lives, but before too long Anna suspects something and that is where The Guest begins to go off the rails and we mean that in the most affectionate of ways.
Wingard and Barrett have crafted a character that seems custom fit for the talents of Stevens. The former Downton Abbey star may have left fans mourning his loss when he departed the show, but given the performance he gives in The Guest, Stevens was meant for much, much bigger things. He is searing, sexy, sensational and downright scary.
We also adore how Wingard has shot his film and especially his vision for the score. The Guest feels timeless, yet it could be a late '80s stylistic thriller given the synthesizer-heavy soundtrack. Wingard’s use of light and colors is nothing short of brilliant. It adds a feel to the movie that has us slightly uneasy.
There are the landscape shots of Middle America that give it that everyday feel. Yet, there are numerous moments throughout the film that are jolting both visually and emotionally.
The impending sense of doom permeates, but the audience never knows where it is going to come from or even in what form. See, until the final moments of the film -- we’re not even sure what specifically is going on with David. And that is a masterwork of filmmaking frankly.
In an era where so many screenwriters and directors telegraph their characters’ motivations from miles away, Wingard and Barrett not only keep their cinematic secrets close to the chest, they’re frankly buried so deep that we don’t see what hit us until long after the shock and awe has passed.
And that, our The Guest review, may be the biggest gift of all from this cinematic tandem who have given a star-making vehicle to an actor who is clearly born to be a star.