Hidden Gems is a new series of articles on Oxygen, where our reviewers will examine films that haven’t gotten the attention they deserve. Today, Alex O’Meara makes the case for Adam Wingard’s mystery-thriller The Guest.
The Guest (2014) (15)
Director: Adam Wingard.
Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Leland Orser, Brendan Meyer.
Screenplay by: Simon Barrett.
Running Time: 100 minutes.
Adam Wingard’s latest feature, The Guest, follows David, a military veteran who visits the home of the Peterson family, as he was with their son when he died in action. It was apparently their son’s dying wish that he visit them, and tell them all how much he cared about them. Providing this news, he is instantly welcomed into their home and offered a place to stay for a few nights, whilst he figures out what he wants to do now that he’s on leave from the army. The only family member that appears to find David’s demeanour suspicious is the daughter, Anna. But when bodies start popping up in the local town, it may be too late for the rest of them to realise that they made a mistake by welcoming him into their home.
Dan Stevens does a wonderful job playing the lead character. He’s like any action hero of 1980s cinema that you can think of, but with a twist. He walks the line between charismatic and sinister perfectly, often conveying this with just facial expressions. David finds that the best way to gain the family’s trust is to infiltrate himself into each of their lives by helping them in some way, like helping their son with the bullies in his school, and listening to their personal problems. Up-and-comer Maika Monroe (star of this year’s horror hit, It Follows) also does solid work as the Peterson’s suspecting daughter. Anna is infatuated, but still cautious, of the handsome guest in her home. She is the voice of reason that often goes ignored until it is too late in films of this sort. Are her suspicions well founded though?
The Guest is most definitely in on the joke on how ridiculous it often is, but that’s part of the reason it’s such a fun film. Like Wingard’s previous effort, You’re Next, it’s a tongue-in-cheek take on a genre film. The film pays homage to many action and horror films of the 1980s, often blending both genres. The most obvious reference to these films is the synthesiser score scattered throughout, which helps with the sense of dread and feels reminiscent of Drive. Also reminding one of Drive, which felt like another throwback to the ’80s, is the fantastic electro-pop soundtrack. Although Drive has a much more serious feel to it, The Guest is often a lot more amusing, with a lead just as charismatic Ryan Gosling.
The colourful cinematography adds to the stylised feel of the film and is best displayed in the final act of the film, when the dread, and body count, really starts to mount up. Along with being one of the most entertaining films of last year, it’s also one of the best shot. The action scenes may seem over the top at times, but the film knows exactly where and when to draw the line. It’s not too difficult to spot the different genre tropes at work within the film, and one often feels a sense of nostalgia watching The Guest. However, the film is better than the majority of the films it is influenced by. I feel the film didn’t get the recognition it deserved by a wide audience upon initial release, and now Netflix has given it another chance to gain a new audience.
Verdict: Stylish, camp and, most importantly, a whole lot of fun. The Guest never takes itself too seriously and provided you don’t either, it’s sure to do exactly what it intends: entertain.
The Guest is available to view now on Netflix.