5 Things About 'The Guest' That Made It One of My Gems of 2014
The Guest is a film that released via the festival circuit with critical acclaim, but unfortunately, most of the general public doesn't even know it exists. Directed by Adam Wingard, who also directed the excellent You're Next, The Guest channels some of the zaniness of action movies of yesteryear with a surprising amount of narrative twists. Rather than doing a typical review, I will be running through some of my favorite aspects of the film:
1. Dan Steven's Performance - Honestly, I'd never heard of Dan Stevens prior to watching this film, apparently he's in Downton Abbey, but his chilling performance as David Collins, the returning soldier with something that's just...off, is a delight. You want to root for his character, but his actions make it impossible. The darkness hidden behind his piercing eyes drives him, but up until the very end, we still don't know what drives him, even if we know some of the details of the process. From boy scout to your worst nightmare, Steven's carries this film and takes something relatively small in scope and keeps you glued to the screen.
2. The Story - The conceit of the film, as shown at the beginning, appears uninteresting: the best friend of a fallen soldier goes to visit the soldier's family and provide closure on his death. However, this allows David Collins to assimilate himself into the family's lives, for the worse. Without delving too far into spoilers, there are shades of the Bourne films, as well as other famous thrillers such as American Psycho, and the mystery keeps you wanting more. I was never bored with the film, which is all I could ever want from a film going experience.
3. The Supporting Cast - While consisting of mostly relative no names, the supporting casts provides some of the more interesting performances in recent memory. Primarily, the son and daughter, played by Maika Monroe and Brendan Meyer, respectively. Each plays the opposite of the other. The brother wants to desperately believe in David, while his sister won't let her doubts of his intent go. It provides an interesting dichotomy that the film could probably explore a bit more, but makes them more than peripheral characters.
4. The Action - While The Guest isn't flooding with fight scenes, it makes the most of every action sequence. David is brutal, efficient and relentless, and all his encounters, with the bar scene being the highlight, leave you wanting to see more. Every move he makes is calculated and deliberate, making these scenes more frightening than the frivolous fight scenes populating much of mainstream media. Plus, no shaky cam!
5. The Budget - This film cost about $2 million to create, and not once did I have a complaint about the visuals. Granted, the premise doesn't really lend itself to over the top special effects, but the film looks clean and nothing looks cheesy. Even the climactic setpiece, in a high school haunted maze, manages to impress upon viewing. I'm not trying to disparage big budget films, but I like that this film further demonstrates a big budget isn't a prerequisite for quality.