Note: This is a spoiler-free review.
That Dan Stevens, man. With his blue eyes, charming smile and angular good looks, I’d invite him in my house any day, no questions asked. Luckily, Dan Stevens is a nice, decent person in real life. As for his character, David, in the new horror/thriller The Guest, something darker lurks underneath his seemingly cool façade.
The Peterson Family is mourning the death of a son who died in combat. From those first few moments, we know that this family has suffered the type of lost that breaks them apart. It’s then that the door bell rings, and a good-looking man stands on their doorstep. Mrs. Peterson (Sheila Kelley) invites David in after he tells her that he knew her son before he died. David made a promise that he would check-in with the Peterson’s if anything were to happen to him. David quickly makes good on that promise. Invited to stay at their home for a few days, he learns of each family member’s problems. For Mrs. Peterson, he acts like a surrogate son, something to help her through her grief. He listens to Mr. Peterson’s (Leland Orser) work woes and helps Luke (Brendan Meyer), the Peterson’s teenage son, with a bully situation. The only one who seems suspicious of his behavior is their daughter, Anna (Maika Monroe).
Obviously, there’s something else going on in David’s head. For one, he goes about his good deeds in a mostly violent way. He doesn’t react the same way most people react to certain situations. He does angrily stare off one too many times than that is considered normal. What Stevens does is embrace all of these character nuances, no matter how ridiculous they can be. It’s supposed to be funny, in that unintentional yet entertaining way. It’s a nod to the campiness of 80’s horror films, especially Halloween.
Director Adam Wingard brings a ton of style to the film, while Simon Barrett gives us a solid script that raises questions and builds suspense without handing the audiences the answers all too easily. The mystery of The Guest slowly unwinds until you get into that insane last half hour.
This may not end up being a big box office movie and may not be to everyone’s taste. However, whether you like the film or not, it’s near impossible to deny the irresistible screen presence Dan Stevens exemplifies on screen. I liked him in Downton Abbey, but that role didn’t give him much range. With The Guest, he plays wholesome, aloof, seductive, dangerous, psychotic… He nails every single beat.
The Guest opens in theaters on Wednesday, September 17.