Review: The Guest (2014)

This one comes from the team behind V/H/S and You’re Next, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett. When a soldier arrives at your door and tells you that he knew your recently deceased son in combat, would you invite him into your home? Well the Peterson family would and though at first his presence seems entirely helpful, things start to change when the occurrence of strange deaths question what’s really going on. Starring Dan Stevens, Maika Munroe, Brendan Meyer, Shiela Kelley, Leland Orser and Lance Reddick.

To any fans of Downton Abbey Stevens’ role in this film will seem entirely strange, which is actually quite apt but to those who are unfamiliar, the choice will feel rather fitting. Stevens definitely has the ability to evoke that reaction of discomfort or suspicion which is necessary in a character that is entirely untrustworthy, but at times it feels overly obvious what is trying to be accomplished, pushing the idea of a cold, hard stare a little too much to become slightly over dramatic, without the accompanying intensity to make it affective. His overall performance is good and a lot of the lower moments feel more related to the tone of the film itself rather than any acting issues. The supporting characters and children of the Peterson family Maika Munroe as Anna and Brendan Meyer as Luke both do well and give performances that are quite convincing and manage to avoid the trap Stevens found himself in of being overly dramatic.

The front of the DVD uses a quote from a review “The Bourne Identity crossed with The Terminator”, now that could either be explained simply as marketing to get more people to buy the film or in actual agreement, neither is a particularly good option and the film certainly has nothing to do with Bourne but could very vaguely resemble parts of Terminator; but it does go very well with the fact the film feels slightly confused about what it should be. The set up and general idea for the film make it appear dark and sinister and if they had gone down that route they could have made a film reminiscent of their previous great film You’re Next but they don’t, instead it is more of a delayed start to what is essentially a hybrid 1980’s/2010’s action film. If you go into this expecting something ominous and disturbing you are less likely to actually enjoy it but if you expect a film akin to an indie action film it will work much better because that’s what you’re going to get. The 80s soundtrack works really well with the way several scenes are directed that do have an also general 80s aesthetic to them, although the downside of that means it makes some of the fight scenes feel less real or gritty. The story itself is done fairly well and for the most part it works but towards the end it could be considered unsatisfying as a plot or that the choices made are predictable, as an 80s action film also would be. After all the build up it’s also missing much of a big reveal that would help to make it a more satisfying watch towards the end.

The film-makers here have taken what could have been a very dark and menacing film and used that to make a different kind of action film than you’ve seen before, that in itself is not a bad thing but the result isn’t inherently clever enough to make it something really unique. The film isn’t bad, in fact it’s a fairly good watch but feels slightly hollow and other than some tension and a fair amount of action there isn’t much to offer, without a complicated or surprising plot it’s missing much depth. The direction that could have been taken with this film may have actually made something more interesting and captivating to watch but in itself it is still new and different and worth giving a chance.

Verdict: 6/10

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