Rated R. 99 minutes.
by Ursula Coyote - © © 2014 Picturehouse.
All Rights Reserved
of Dan Stevens in The Guest (2014)
First off, points go
to the director for sticking with a simple bit of motivation for
the opening title: when in doubt, use the same font as numerous
70s horror classics. Anyways, he also does well at manipulating
a wind of dread among viewers that blows in with the genre standard
of doors opened to unrelenting monstrosities. Why call it a wind?
Because it's continually shifting in regards to the mannerisms
of the so-called guest, David Collins.
WHEN that door opens,
of course there's no escape. But Adam Wingard wasn't looking to
make a gross-out competition entry. He's aiming for a thriller
where everyone is off their guard, especially the audience. And
how does that work? Through constant mood shifts that eventually
leave our initial expectations null enough to wonder what's gonna
happen. Is he or isn't he? Will he or won't he? The mood shakeups
are constant enough to coax a unanimous gasp more than three times.
It was also a wise choice to make the explanation behind such
motives subtle and limited, so that it's not hammered into our
heads. Not even the secondary outside party is blatant enough
to pause from the budding tension and inquire what's going on,
despite their doofus organization name (Uh hurr hurr hurr, K.P.G.
If it was anyone other
than Dan Stevens, however, the degree of difficulty in throwing
off viewers would elevate. Here's an actor that came out of nowhere
(nope, never watched that show either) to pull off a military
vet stranger covering his mental scars with a "make things
right winningly" approach. Every exchange of dialogue involving
Collins is an awarded score for his side.
The movie's tension
works through the well-aged plot device of one character (in this
case breakout actress Maika Monroe's Anna) discovering some peculiar
things about the mystery visitor while everyone else deems him
a saint. The weak point in all this, however, is the tendency
of Anna (whom might I add Monroe paces well in her suspicions
and frustrations), her friends, and family (featuring Leland Orser
as the supporting cast highlight) to acquaint with and react to
David in a fashion that can best be summed up by the following:
DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB DUMB.
I agree, having a large concentration of idiot characters extends
the anticipation of what will happen and provokes greater audience
emotion that helps to make the viewing experience fun.
In "The Guest,"
though, the supporting characters' word choices and decisions
feel like a social ineptness contagion instead of a few minute
yet fatal flaws. Even the introductory talks contain a dash of
dumb. The family members could have been intellectually respected
more through, hmmm, having more than ONE dialogue exchange about
David that wasn't within David's hearing range. Amongst other
things that are soaked in spoiler. I'm still out to lunch on whether
this was intended humorous homage to the genre trademark of victim
stupidity. Okay, one spoiler: nor did it help to have Anna's confrontational
moment end up as a "Cry Wolf" declaration instead of
something more "Game, set, match." I don't know, something
at the level of flashing the ring while descending the stairs
in... that Hitchcock movie for which you'll have to sit through
his entire collection to find.
Despite that, "The
Guest" sets up a cautious tale of trust lingering underneath
the humorous demeanor and caring nature of a brotherly figure
likely either good, evil, or both. It's a performance by Dan Stevens
that is able to captivate the viewer with a level of charisma
as welcoming as his actions are horrifying, something perhaps
seldom seen since Dr. Lecter himself.
4 / 5
the official movie trailer:
poster credit: Picturehouse
Guest" movie poster