The Guest – 2014

Director Adam Wingard
Screenplay Simon Barrett
Starring Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Leland Orser, Sheila Kelley, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick

Dan Stevens is everything one would hope an intensely “touched” veteran could be in yet another solid collaboration between Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett. The film is a solid thriller that devolves into a high minded gore in the last act while managing not to lose any of the intensity Stevens carves out in the first two.

The strength of the film is in the script and Wingard exploring the range of his lead antagonist. Stevens enters the story as David Collins, a soldier in Caleb Peterson’s platoon who comes to visit Peterson’s family sometime after their son died in service. He says some of the right things and does enough other things to work his way into the family of four that includes Laura (Kelley, Spencer (Orser) and their two remaining kids Anna and Luke (Monroe and Meyer).

The fact that he doesn’t win everyone over in one, or even two fell swoops bodes well for the talent. Anna takes her time, but even after she is won over a bit, she is not so smitten that she just falls in line. As a result, we get to see Stevens constantly at work, attempting to improve his footing on the shifting sand. Even better, the Petersons get to experience their own problem with the constantly moving landscape.

It’s a winning choice that we never get a clear backstory for Stevens. To go much further than they do would risk going into Bourne territory. Instead we get a man who seems unhinged but moves with cold precision simultaneously.

One can understand how a film like this might slide under the radar. The title doesn’t tell you much and I personally got it confused with The Gift at times. Give it a chance, though. You won’t be disappointed.

(**** out of *****)

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