From Downton to downright dangerous!
The Guest is a wonderfully arch retro thriller from writer/director team Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett that harks back to a plethora of '80s action films and chillers, with a heavy pleasurable dose of John Carpenter menace seeping across every frame thanks to its synthy score and its Halloween setting.
Dan Stevens is a world away from the landed gentry and English aristocracy of Downton Abbey, playing the charming and enigmatic US soldier David, who becomes the titular guest of the troubled family of a deceased veteran with whom he claims to have served alongside. Despite their initial suspicions, the family - keen to fill the hole in their lives left by their son/brother who never returned home - are quickly seduced by David's good nature and charms; he helps out mom around the house, provides a sympathetic ear to dad's work woes and becomes something of a protector for their young son Luke, who is being bullied at school, and their difficult daughter, Anna, who is dating a small time drug pusher. Pretty soon the general consensus is David can do no wrong.
But then people close to the family start turning up dead and an increasingly suspicious Anna (Maika Monroe) puts a call in to the military only to be told that David is dead...
Wingard and Barrett's increasingly fraught and ludicrous schlock horror is a lot of fun which, thankfully, doesn't take itself too seriously. One quote on the DVD claims it's ''The Bourne Identity crossed with The Terminator'' and that's a pretty fair comparison. Others have made comparisons with Drive - good looking, blonde blue eyed nice guy turns out to be not quite what he initially seems, complete with high violence and set to 80s synth - but this isn't as accurate; The Guest clearly takes its cue from yesteryear, and not (mercifully!) in the way that Tarantino and Rodriguez have done with the likes of their exploitation homages Death Proof and Machete.
Wingard and Barret ratchet up the suspense at every turn, revelling in the clean cut all-American image that red herring Stevens appears to possess, but totally go for ridiculous broke in the final reel which descends into tongue in cheek campy, horror set - where else? - in a booby-trapped Funhouse, and allowing Monroe to be crowned the title of Scream Queen for a new generation.
A great beer and pizza movie, I had a lot of fun with this - and any film that features Lance 'Cedric Daniels off The Wire' Reddick is fine by me. Over on Letterboxd, I gave this four out of five stars - I'm probably rating it at least half a star higher than it deserves but...ah, fuck it! It was just great fun.