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article imageReview: ‘The Guest’ settles in for a disquieting night Special

By Sarah Gopaul     Oct 16, 2014 in Entertainment
‘The Guest’ is a well-paced thriller concerning a young man whose visit to the home of a fallen comrade appears to coincide with a series of violent crimes.
Families who have lost are vulnerable and therefore easy targets for people looking to take advantage of their grief. For someone grasping for understanding or closure, even the slightest connection can appear as a life preserver in a sea of dark despair. In The Guest, a family welcomes a friend of their dead son into their home with dire consequences.
Spencer and Laura Peterson (Leland Orser and Sheila Kelley) are still recovering after learning their son was killed during a military operation overseas. When David (Dan Stevens) arrives at their door claiming to have served with him and been trusted with a message for each member of the family, the Petersons can't help but welcome him. David is the perfect, well-mannered houseguest. He's handsome, courteous and seems to get along with everyone. His negotiation tactics are somewhat aggressive but effective, and everyone seems uplifted by his presence. However, when the “something that's not right about him" explodes to the forefront, he politely begins to erase every trace of his ever being there.
This narrative is derived from the same ilk as Single White Female, in which a seemingly normal psychopath infiltrates the lives of innocent people and turns their world upside down. David feigns to have had good intentions, claiming to have wanted to "help" the Petersons but his idea of assistance comes with blood and police reports. David’s transgressions aren’t exactly subtle either. The first indication that he may not be as charming as he appears is his attempt to aid teenage son Luke (Brendan Meyer) with a bully problem. David’s solution involves a bar brawl. This is also the first display of the soldier’s military training.
The above-mentioned desperation of the family excuses their inability to see David’s faults at first glance. Also, the fact that the entire family is not taken by his act makes them less gullible and more hopeful. Stevens portrays David flawlessly. His Southern civility and the twinkle in his eye make it plausible that he could fool almost anyone. The smoothness with which he moves under attack complements his personality. His cordial nature remains even in battle as he looks to be nearly smiling when he’s respectfully inflicting injury or death on his opponents.
Director Adam Wingard and frequent co-conspirator, writer Simon Barrett, splashed onto the horror scene with You’re Next, in which a character turned out to be more than she appeared. This similar scenario has been turned on its head in this picture, though it’s obvious the filmmakers are comfortable in the genre.
The conclusion is left open for a possible sequel with more than one option for subject matter. That’s not to say it’s unexpected as it does deliver an ending appropriate for the narrative, but rather that a follow-up picture would not be undesirable.
Director: Adam Wingard
Starring: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe and Leland Orser
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