Adam Wingard’s confident, swoony, and hilarious thriller The Guest delivers on everything — the sex, the humor, the menace, the cool — and even though it climaxes in a haunted-house maze chase we think we’ve seen before, we’ve never seen it this good, this playful, or this ambitious.
A discharged vet turns up at the home of a family whose son never made it back. He doesn’t want to intrude; he’s merely passing through. But grieving mother Laura (Sheila Kelley) begs him to stay and sleep in the son’s old room, at least for a few nights. “What if he has the PTSD or whatever it’s called?” cautions her husband (Leland Orser). Their high-school-age son, Luke (Brendan Meyer), is also on edge, as is their 20-year-old goth-babe daughter, Anna (Maika Monroe), who’s worried about her parents’ fragile stability.
The Peterson family’s fears aren’t off base. There’s something wrong under David’s surface, something in the way the light in those bright eyes shuts off whenever he’s alone. But boy, is that surface seductive. He’s the real Captain America: polite, protective, charming, and a walking cloud of pheromones. The Guest sounds like a ripped-from-the-headlines horror flick about traumatized veterans, but it’s not designed to outrage or offend.
It wants to have fun, and so it makes David (Dan Stevens) both the immediate threat and a victim himself (of a mysterious government program that it never bothers to explain). It even lets us believe that this killer with Terminator grace might actually love this family even as he resolves to murder it. A transcendent comic chiller, when The Guest‘s characters are in peril we actually care, and Wingard respectfully makes the kills clean and quick.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 17, 2014