TIFF 2014: The Guest Review
A mysterious, but seemingly kind stranger appears at the home of the Petersons – offering a message of condolence for their recently lost soldier son. But, as charming as David (Dan Stevens) is, something is amiss – and the eldest daughter Anna can’t quite put her finger on it. From the writing/directing duo who bought us the surprisingly-hilarious horror-black-comedy You’re Next, comes a action-thriller/black-comedy.
I never expected to enjoy You’re Next – the trailers just made it look like another run-of-the-mill home-invasion horror, but boy-o was I wrong. So when I saw this on the list this year, it was instantly one of my top-priority films. Even still, I was wary, as once again the description and trailers were only so-so. Again, completely blown away by this riotous gore-fest, that’s slow-building, but witty and suspenseful all the same. What 22 Jump Street did to Buddy Cop genre Barrett & Wingard are bringing to horror/thriller/action films – and it’s wonderful. The acting by everyone in this film is spot-on, especially Brendan Meyer as the bullied teenage-son (who is absolutely the smartest character in the film), and Dan Stevens, who (as if he’s trying to make a point to distance himself from his uber-nice-guy Matthew Crawley role from Downton Abbey) plays the ultimate bad-boy hunk. Drool.
I was a little disappointed that although the writer and director where there to introduce the film, they were unable to stick around for a Q&A afterwards, since, according to them, they had a “big coke shipment coming in from LA,” and were going to “a crazy hollywood-style coke party”.
I have not yet had the pleasure of seeing You’re Next, and so I may have missed this one if it wasn’t for Chantelle’s recommendation, and the fact that it stars Dan Stevens. Stevens was a delight on Downton Abbey and I was greatly looking forward to seeing him play a psycho killer. Well, not only did he not disappoint, I am almost at a loss for words for describing how insanely awesome he was in The Guest. It’s a rare film that ends with me clapping and saying “again, again!”. I could have easily sat through an immediate second screening and walked out just as satisfied. This film doesn’t try to revolutionize horror/thriller storytelling, but instead revels in time-honoured tropes to great effect. It is just the right amount of tongue in cheek and actual gravitas to draw you in despite the desire to scoff. The entire cast was very well chosen, but Stevens deserves the mother of all slow claps for completely transforming into a machine made of southern drawl, relentlessness, and unbridled sexiness. This film became an instant guilty pleasure of mine, and on its strengths I can’t wait to see what the film makers have offered previously.