'The Guest' review: A darkly funny, savagely violent modern cult classic
First and foremost, find a theater where this film is playing and see it immediately. This is not merely a suggestion - seeing "The Guest" is an imperative.
In short: A recently discharged soldier ("Downton Abbey" actor Dan Stevens) shows up on the doorstep of a family in mourning and claims to be a friend of their son who died in Afganistan. The family's mundane life is shaken up by the unexpected arrival of their mysterious guest. (watch the trailer)
The simplicity of its premise absolutely works perfectly due to near perfect execution and its star Dan Stevens. This psychological thriller weaves seamlessly from an apparent drama, shifts slowly to a creepy/uneasy thriller and finishes with an absolutely bonkers third act. It allows the main character to charm, establishes that he might just be a little "off" and then throws all the elements together and ramps up to a ridiculous and exciting third act.
Stevens is perfectly cast as the film's titular character - a man who is polite, charming, chilling and totally OK with excessive violence. He's absolutely convincing as a sincere, discharged war veteran trying to make good on a promise to a fallen comrade -- and he can effortlessly switch to a Terminator-like antagonist with ice in his veins who deals violence out with precision and ruthless efficiency.
It's also time to add director Adam Wingard to the list of emerging filmmakers to watch. This exciting thriller is just the latest refreshing work from the director of the home invasion thriller "You're Next" and horror anthology "V/H/S/2." And like "You're Next," Wingard shows his precise awareness of tone in creating a story that's incredibly chilling and intense, yet punctuated with hilarious comedic beats. These moments of dark comedy are organic to the character and/or the moment, so they don't pull audiences out of otherwise eerie tones and scenes. Simply put: this is a truly fun and chilling violent romp.
It's difficult to say much more about "The Guest" without spoiling some of its fun plot and character turns - except to say, this indie gem is one of the best films of this year.
Final verdict: Strongly recommended isn't strong enough a term for "The Guest" -- it's absolutely worth adding this incredibly awesome thriller to your '"must-see films of 2014" list right now.
"The Guest" is currently playing in select cities and is rated R for strong violence, language, some drug use and a scene of sexuality.