The Story: A war vet shows up to help the family of his fallen brother-in-arms. But he has some peculiar ideas about how to “help” them.
Expectations: When I sat down to start watching THE GUEST, all I knew was that it was a well-reviewed film by director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, the team behind A HORRIBLE WAY TO DIE and YOU’RE NEXT. I had also heard that it was something of a genre hybrid. Everything else was a surprise.
Reaction: Earlier this month, I reviewed THE GIFT in the context of the “Interloper” / “yuppie horror movie” subgenre. Right off the bat, THE GUEST reminded me that I had overlooked one very important part of that formula: Interlopers are cool. For a while, their victims really like them—because they are charming, they are seductive, and they don’t follow the rules. Everybody wants a friend (or a lover) like that, right? Remember SINGLE WHITE FEMALE, POISON IVY (the “lethal Lolita” one with Drew Barrymore), FEAR (the one with Marky Mark Wahlberg), PACIFIC HEIGHTS, etc. These are all tales of seduction, in one way or another.
In THE GUEST, Dan Stevens is undeniably cool and unquestionably dangerous. That much is clear from the very first time he flashes his smarmy-ass smile. You wouldn’t trust this guy. At least, you shouldn't trust this guy. But the family in the film does. Because they want to. I wasn't surprised when he turned out to be a bit of a sociopath. The other characters in the film seem to be genuinely surprised, but they don’t care… because, well, he’s cool. And he’s “helping” them—with bullies, with ex-boyfriends, with career goals. you name it. And then.
(WARNING: MID-MOVIE SPOILER AHEAD. PROCEED WITH CAUTION.)
The Interloper turns out to be Jason Bourne. I didn’t see this coming, and it was a welcome surprise. At this point, I’m thinking: This is a very different kind of Interloper story. Maybe the Interloper is as much hero as villain? Yeah sure, he’s a stone-cold killer, but now that we know a secret government agency is trying to eliminate him, maybe he’s really the lesser of two evils?? Maybe it's okay for us to like this guy.
More stuff happens. I don’t want to be a jerk and give it away. But I will say that I was impressed—no, downright giddy—at the way this film fuses Jason Bourne and Halloween, while at the same time paying homage to DRIVE. The soundtrack (not to mention the poster art) is an indicator of this film’s 80s action / horror movie DNA: this is DRIVE meets THE NEW KIDS. And if that doesn’t appeal to you…. well, then we can’t be friends anymore.
Most Nightmare-Worthy Moment: Only good dreams here.