Bottom line: A B-movie masterpiece
By Cary Darling
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“The Guest” is, loudly and proudly, a B-movie, the kind of film that begs to be seen with a large, involved audience that’s not afraid to talk back to the screen.
In this case, that’s not a bad thing.
Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett (the same team that made the 2011 horror thriller “You’re Next”) have fashioned a sly, entertaining tip of the hat to ’70s-era John Carpenter films that also works on its own terms as crafty popcorn entertainment that never devolves into parody.
Dan Stevens is Daniel, a recently returned U.S. soldier who shows up out of the blue at the family home of Caleb, one of his deceased Army buddies. Daniel informs Caleb’s still distraught mom (Sheila Kelley) that one of Caleb’s final wishes was that he find them and tell them how much their son loved them.
The family — including Dad (Leland Orser), sister Anna (Maika Monroe), and bullied brother Luke (Brendan Meyer) — is so taken with this polite, clean-cut young man that they invite him to stay a few days. After all, a photo of Caleb with some Army friends includes Daniel, so this guy must be on the up and up. What’s the harm in letting him stay awhile?
The answer, of course, would fill a laundry list.
While much of what follows is predictable, it’s how Wingard and Barrett get Daniel to artfully insinuate himself into this family’s life before revealing his true self that makes “The Guest” so much fun. Humorous without being a comedy, clever without being cute, and violent without being overly grisly, the film moves swiftly enough to mask the usual logic flaws in movies like this.
Englishman Stevens — with the likes of “Sense & Sensibility,” “Dracula,” “Agatha Christie’s Marple,” and, of course, “Downton Abbey” on his résumé — may seem more PBS than Spike TV, but his take on a charming but tough, two-faced American bad guy is pitch perfect. The soundtrack, including ’80s flavor-of-the-month Stevie B, adds to the film’s strengths.
This “Guest” can stay as long as it likes.