By: Heather Seebach
The world rightfully stood up and took notice of director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett with last year's hit You're Next but the duo has been churning out quality thrillers for years and their latest is no exception. The Guest effortlessly oozes cool thanks to its charmingly creepy lead Dan Stevens and a John Carpenter motif that would make any 80s horror fan a little horny.
Stevens plays David Collins, a recently discharged American soldier who shows up at the home of his fallen comrade. The grieving family welcomes the young man to stay with them but daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) is suspicious of the mysterious stranger. Before long, the soft-spoken David has shaken up the Peterson family in unexpected ways.
Right from the opening title card, this film wears its Carpenter influence with pride. Surprisingly enough, it draws the biggest inspiration from Halloween, though The Guest does not directly feel like a horror film. Michael Myers was originally known as "The Shape", a moniker that could suit "David Collins" just as well - another nameless stranger coming "home" for the holiday. Keep your eyes peeled for the blink-and-miss-it reference to Halloween 3: Season of the Witch!
There are also shades of Michael Mann throughout. The film's climax in particular, with its vibrant colors and thumping synth music, lulls you into a (Tangerine) dream. The soundtrack is comprised of goth/electronic/synth pop from the 80s to present, including the likes of Clan of Xymox, Survive, and Sisters of Mercy. You WILL be running to buy/download the OST immediately after watching this movie. It's that great, and demands a vinyl release!
In the titular role, Stevens is virtually unrecognizable to anyone who knows him from Downton Abbey. He slips into the role - and the American accent - with ease. Cool as the entire film is, I could get lost just watching his subtle expression changes. He has the same sort of seductive-but-deadly charm that Matthew Goode had in Stoker. Stevens has the face of a boy-next-door but the icy blue eyes of a psychopath, setting up the viewer in the perfect position, asking, Can we trust him? One person who says no is Anna (above), played by Maika Monroe. Once again, Simon Barrett has written a lead female who is no stereotype or "final girl." While Anna may seem like perfect jail-bait material to the equally sexy David, she is in fact a savvy young woman who sees through his bullshit.
Wingard and Barrett continue to prove they are no one-trick-ponies, taking a wide step away from last year's animal mask sensation for this quieter, trippier film. Still, fans of You're Next can expect at least two fun references and a cameo from a Wingard alumnus here. With its 80s-tastic visual flair, synth soundtrack, and Dan "British Ryan Gosling" Stevens, The Guest constantly brings to mind one word: "Cool." Even if you think you are burnt-out on the 80s/Carpenter/synth revival in horror as of late, take my advice and make room for one more!
The Guest is available On Demand, and hits DVD/Blu-ray January 6th, 2015. Special features include deleted scenes, Q&A with Dan Stevens, and commentary with Wingard and Barrett.