October 1, 2015

The Guest

Adam Wingard, 2014
Grieving the loss of their soldier son who died in combat, the Peterson family is surprised to find a mysterious visitor at their door named David, a fellow soldier who says he served with their son overseas.

There is a lot to like about The Guest. Gorgeous cinematography (done by Robby Baumgartner), a sometimes menacing sometimes dreamy synth-wave soundtrack, fresh story, and impressive direction by Adam Wingard. When David (Dan Stevens) knocks on the door of the Peterson home, it sets forth a chain of events that is rather engaging. Who is this guy? Is he a robot? Is he under some kind of mind control like in The Manchurian Candidate? Part of it has to do with the fact that David himself is at first glance a rather unassuming person. Charming even. He manages to quickly extract the problems plague each individual Peterson family member. This is because they establish trust in the guy pretty quickly. As the whole peeling of the onion process unfolds with David’s character, the pacing is laid out well. 

The Guest has a good cast, particularly with Maika Monroe as daughter Anna and Leland Orser who plays father Spencer Peterson. Orser seems to be a really good character actor, he displays a layered character within the first few minutes we see him on screen. Dan Stevens is definitely a good fit for the David role. His empty smiles and monotone demeanor creates a level of discomfort that you really need in the story. Often the best performances are the ones that are restrained. 

There is a lot of human elements to the Peterson family. Grief, heartbreak, work stress, high school bullying. All very real problems that the average American family endures on a regular basis. When David knocks on the door he is immediately preying on the weak. The tears are still wet on mother Laura’s face, and she would probably let anyone into their home who had any kind of connection to their deceased son. The stylistic elements of the film are certainly the most memorable. But if Hanna or Drive taught us anything, sometimes that’s all you need.

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