First off, Dan Stevens. Just… wow. His performance as David Collins is mesmerising, his frighteningly subtle mannerisms and glares perfectly depicting the untold darkness that lies beneath his handsome exterior. Previously best known for his role as Matthew Crawley on Downton Abbey, Stevens was provided with a chance by Director Adam Wingard to show what he is capable of on the big screen, and he leaps for it with open arms.
Stevens’ performance, and indeed the movie itself, evokes memories of Ryan Gosling’s ‘Driver’ in Nicolas Winding Refn’s 2011 neo-noir sleeper hit ‘Drive’, with the actor’s grace and charm belying the capabilities of violence that lie underneath. ‘Drive’ is one of my favourite movies of all-time, and so it’s no surprise that I had an absolute blast watching a movie with so many similarities.
However, ‘The Guest’ forges its own path, unafraid to indulge in the surreal and pay homage to the territory often occupied by 80’s horror films. The halloween setting of the film, in particular, paves the way for a visually enticing ‘hall of mirrors’ scene during the climax.
Furthermore, it’s unafraid to mock its own absurdity, the ending in particular hilariously ambiguous. It should be noted that there is a sharp genre transition in the last third of the film, and the fact that the film turns on a dime may be too jarring, even for audiences willing to suspend their beliefs. Furthermore, there will be some that like the first two acts of the film and be notably less satisfied with the third, or of course vice versa. Either way, there is entertainment to be had here, if not for the storyline and acting masterclass from Stevens then for the mesmerising electronic soundtrack, masterfully composed by synth specialist Stephen Moore, and easily cementing its place as one of the best film scores of the year.
Overall, this is an undoubtedly satisfying film, its jarring genre transition preceding the climax able to be largely forgiven due to the marvellous performances all round, headed by the spellbinding and terrifying performance of lead Dan Stevens, who with little more than a prolonged facial expression can make even the bravest of theatre goers feel their stomach churn with anxiety.
Director: Adam Wingard
Stars: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer
Originally published on davidzita.net on 28th December, 2014