Looking Back at 2010s Films: The Guest (2014)

14 Oct

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By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films, here’s the setup to “The Guest”: a stranger named David (Dan Stevens) arrives to a family’s house, saying he was a friend of their late son who served and died in combat, and after he earns their trust, he slowly but surely reveals his true colors as someone diabolical…

It sounds familiar, but it doesn’t feel familiar. But unlike “The Gift,” which also did something different with a familiar setup, “The Guest” isn’t interested in providing psychological insight into human behavior while providing a familiar setup. Instead, it’s just a good fun time, with action, comedy, horror, and occasional drama. And it never takes itself too seriously–it’s like if “The Hand That Rocks The Cradle” combined with “The Terminator.”

There’s more than a handful of good, memorable scenes in “The Guest.” One of my favorites is when David protects the youngest son (Brendan Meyer) against some school bullies, follows them to a bar where they’re too young to be drinking, and totally trashes them, blackmailing the bartender not to say anything. Both “The Guest” and “John Wick” were released in the same year–I’d easily rival this scene in “The Guest” with the club scene in “John Wick.”

Of course, things are not right with David, who turns out to be sinister (though thankfully vague in his reasons as to why). And it leads to a fight to survive…in a Halloween funhouse maze…with ’80s-’90s techno music playing throughout! What a way to end a thrill ride, right?!

Well, at least, the climax made me forget my little gripes I have about the film, like a few slow portions (particularly in the middle act) and some poor acting from side roles. And there’s also Dan Stevens. This was my introduction to him, having not seen one episode of “Downton Abbey,” and he’s fantastic in this film. One moment, he’ll be a cool guy to have a beer and chat with…then the next, he’s hurling grenades in a diner, killing all inside.

Side-note: there’s a little pet-peeve I have with these movies, when someone tries to tell someone else some horrible news and the response is “You’re just saying that.” Why would somebody just say something like that?? It’s right up there with “it’s only the wind” as one of my biggest pet-peeves in horror movies.

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