Retro Review of ‘The Guest:’ ‘Terminator’ Meets ‘Halloween’ in Slick Action-Thriller

the guest

A soldier comes home to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After being welcomed into their lives, a series of strange occurrences and deaths begin to occur, and they all seem to center around this mysterious man. Who is this stranger the Petersons have allowed into their home? Who is The Guest? 

Directed by Adam Wingard and written by Simon Barrett, “The Guest” stars: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Sheila Kelley, Brenden Meyer, Lance Reddick and Leland Orser in a polished, smart and criminally entertaining genre mash-up that’s unlike anything else out there.

A student of the game, Wingard creates an excellent piece that pays homage to the filmmakers that inspired him while also kicking up his own tune. His camerawork and framing are reminiscent of director John Carpenter’s style, particularly 1978’s “Halloween.” The camera moves with a steady grace that allows for a full appreciation of the film’s beautiful shot compositions. Wingard and cinematographer Robby Baumgartner make great use of the wide shot to fully engross you in the film’s bold, strange world. 

“The Guest” is strange indeed, but I love it for that. Undeniably entertaining, the film strikes an odd chord of suspense, action and slasher-esque horror. The thrills blend with a subtle, idiosyncratic sense of humor that might come across as confusing, but if you can sync up with it, you’ll have a blast!

Dan Stevens plays David, the man at the center of this puzzle box, and sweet Jesus, he is a wonder to behold. Stevens is brilliant in this role. A former “Downton Abbey” player, he soundly breaks away from the British aristocracy and transforms into a ripped, smooth-talking stud. He understands the filmmaker’s humor and style and eats it up with a big ol’ bouillon spoon.

Armed with a dry wit and killer smile, David makes for a lethal combination of tall, dark and handsome and bone-breaking commando. He moves with swift brutality and precision in the action scenes, very much resembling Arnold’s T-1000. Stevens plays it straight without falling into cheesy B-movie territory. He nails every aspect of the character, hopping back and forth easily between charm and menace. Picture Mr. Rogers with a six-pack and a machine gun. Friendly yet deadly.

The films supporting cast is also excellent. Maika Monroe delivers a star-making performance as Anna Peterson, the one member of the Peterson family who suspects David may not be who he says. Her classic Hollywood allure and sultriness are not at the cost of serious acting chops. She brings a considerable emotional weight to her character, earning your respect as she steals your heart. Lance Reddick kills it as the chief of the clandestine organization on the hunt for David. Their relationship offers an interesting take on the Michael Myers/Dr. Loomis dichotomy from “Halloween.”

Gorgeously shot, with a clever screenplay, terrific performances and action, “The Guest” is another home run from Wingard and Barrett that proves these guys are not a one-trick pony.

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