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Review: The Guest

October 17, 2014

By John Corrado

★★★½ (out of 4)

The Guest Poster

Right from the opening title card, which lands on screen with a boom clearly meant to elicit the first jump scare of the film, The Guest positions itself as a throwback to the classic genre busting horror comedies and action thrillers of the 1980s.

And everything that follows lives up to this promise, becoming one of the most purely entertaining films of the year.  Knowingly aware of horror movie cliches, and wringing some pitch black humour out of the situation and appropriately atmospheric October setting, the film seems destined to become a modern Halloween classic.

After closing out the Midnight Madness section of TIFF last month, The Guest finally arrives for a limited run in theatres this weekend, courtesy of D Films.  See this one with a good crowd.

When David (Dan Stevens) arrives on the doorstep of the grieving Peterson family, claiming to have fought with their son who was killed overseas, he is immediately welcomed into their home by the well meaning mother (Sheila Kelley).  The seemingly charming David becomes a confidante to their bullied teen son Luke (Brendan Meyer), but as Halloween approaches and people start mysteriously showing up dead, their crafty young adult daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) becomes suspicious of the new houseguest.

Starting as a drama with comedic undertones, before seamlessly morphing into an exciting action thriller and finally becoming a full stop horror film in the last act, The Guest is simply a great blast of genre filmmaking from director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett, the same team behind You’re Next.  This is all expertly handled with creeping suspense and a wicked sense of humour, and the film works because of this carefully balanced tone, culminating with a brilliantly done set piece in a haunted maze that puts mirrors and fog machines to particularly inventive use.

The performances are also top notch.  Dan Stevens is perfectly cast as this former soldier who almost seems too good to be true, and in typical horror movie fashion arouses the suspicion of almost no one, even as it becomes increasingly clear that he’s not exactly who he seems, and his sinister side start to be revealed.  Just watch the way that he flicks open a knife to carve a pumpkin.  Maika Monroe is refreshingly given more to work with than just being the usual scream queen or damsel in distress, rocking the role with a cunning confidence that is refreshing for a horror movie heroine.

From the stylish cinematography to the perfect soundtrack, there are any number of memorable scenes throughout this tense, darkly funny and just scary enough film that is suspenseful and entertaining as hell to watch unfold.  And a film like this wouldn’t be complete without that before credits scene that sends a final shiver down our spines, which The Guest also generously offers.

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