The Guest

The Guest

The Guest is one of those films –made as homage to a bygone decade or era, warts and all, but done just right. What it lacks for in subtlety and nuance, it makes up for in other ways. As a throwback thriller to the glory days of gory, violent 80’s action films set somewhere in small town USA, it is sometimes clunky in dialogue but never, ever dull.

The Guest in question is David (Dan Steven, in his follow up to A Walk Among the Tombstones), a discharged soldier stopping by at the home of the Peterson’s, who recently lost their son in battle. David claims to have known the son, having served together, which pictures on Peterson family’s living room wall testify to, and says he is just passing by to check on them. The family is kind enough to insist he stays for a few days and David reluctantly agrees. He then slowly starts embedding himself into the family, helping the son out with bullies at school and the daughter with a stalking ex. Of course, and it’s quite obvious from the outset, he isn’t who he says he is, with a violent, unstable disposition and near superhuman strength, and figuring out the truth, to the extent that it’s revealed, is where most of the fun lies in watching this.

It must be acknowledged before I talk about what works in The Guest that the film is sometimes over the top and often gratuitously violent. Much of this is played to the beats of a synthesizer keyboard heavy soundtrack of electronica, the kind that used to be featured in 80’s B-movies that only found life as cult midnight films on television. Under normal circumstances I would also never praise a film that had hammy performances (such as that of the character of Major Carver, a military grunt entrusted with capturing David, who barks all his lines with all the grace of a rabid canine) but mixed with the small town feel, the sardonic tone and yes, the music, this campiness is elevated to high art.

Adam Wingard, the director, orchestrates the final scenes channeling the prowess of Wes Craven ala his Scream series and it’s slasher movie shenanigans, while the gun pumping action that precedes this is made with appropriate levels of bloodiness. Odd as it may seem, The Guest is great fun in a perverse sort of way because you never know if the guy you are rooting for is worth rooting for (i.e. you care for the victims as well). This guessing game is precisely what keeps the macabre narrative moving, playing with audiences and keeping them on their toes. Needless to say, if you’ve been itching for a film that knowingly harks back to the past while feeling fresh in it’s own right, you’ll welcome The Guest with open arms.

Rating: ★★★½☆

About Faizan Rashid

A veteran Dubai based film critic, Faizan has been reviewing movies for nearly a decade. His work has been published in local newspapers such as 7days and on prestigious online websites such as MSN Arabia and