The Peterson family lost their son in action while he was serving in the Army. Some time later a stranger arrives at their door. He claims to have served with the Peterson’s son. Not only was this stranger his friend, but the stranger says he was also there when their son died. Desperate for closure, the Peterson family welcomes this man into their home. It doesn’t take long for people around the family to start getting hurt or killed, and it seems likely that this mysterious man named David is at the root of everything.
Adam Wingard (You’re Next, V/H/S, V/H/S/2) is becoming one of my favorite directors in the horror/thriller genre. This film is another achievement for him. Not only was the storyline original and intense, but the characters Wingard created were incredibly dynamic. One of the aspects of the film that I think was especially successful was how the story explained who David (Dan Stevens) is, and why he does these horrible things, without going too far into it. It’s the perfect balance so there are no plot holes, but the audience is not overloaded with information either. The choreography of the action sequences is also quite stunning and brutal all at the same time. When it comes to the characters, they are very complex but enjoyable. Even when David is doing unspeakable things, there is something that makes you still like him.
The acting in this film was absolutely phenomenal. Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, A Walk Among the Tombstones) was especially amazing as the mysterious David. When I started watching the film, I knew I recognized Stevens. It wasn’t until I finally looked him up on IMDB that I finally realized that the man who played David was also the same man that played Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey. It is clear that he went through a major physical transformation for this role. He was a bit on the soft side when he was on Downton Abbey, but had lost 30lbs to prepare for his role in A Walk Among the Tombstones before getting his role in The Guest. To prepare for his role as David, Stevens went through rigorous physical training, gaining 25lbs of muscle. Even more amazing than the physical transformation is his acting ability. Stevens was completely believable as the handsome sociopath that could be exceedingly charming one moment, and a stone-cold killer the next. Maika Monroe (It Follows) did a great job as Anna, the sister of the fallen soldier. She really showed her range and that she can play a strong female character that kicks some butt when she needs to.
One of my favorite aspects of this film was the music. Both the soundtrack and the score were so beautiful. The mixture of upbeat 80’s style synth music was the perfect accompaniment to the evil deeds carried out by David. The score, by Steve Moore, was absolutely breathtaking. It reminded me a bit of the score from John Carpenter’s Halloween. There is even an Easter Egg in the film that references Halloween III: Season of the Witch. During the climax of the film you can actually see projections of the masks from Halloween III on the walls. Another clever Easter Egg was related to Adam Windward’s film, You’re Next. At the party that David and Anna go to towards the beginning of the film you can see a party goer wearing one of the animal masks from You’re Next.
This was the kind of movie that I really enjoyed while I was watching it, but fell more and more in love with as I thought about the film afterwards. It was so successful in many ways to the point where I already want to watch it again (which rarely happens). I really hope to see Dan Stevens in more horror movies. He clearly can succeed with any role he is given. In the future I will be keeping an eye out for more films directed by Adam Wingard. From what I have seen of his work Wingard perfectly blends horror, suspense, despicable villains (that you can’t help but like), amazing music, and strong female characters. I can’t wait to see what he does next.
OVERALL RATING: 9/10