The Guest review: Dan Stevens uses his charm for evil

Dan Stevens is brilliant in Adam Wingard’s thrilling 80s throwback The Guest

Last year, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett delivered the whip-smart and deliriously entertaining genre deconstruction You’re Next. Their follow up might not be applying the same satirical eye to its inspirations (particularly The Terminator and Halloween) but it is a huge amount of fun.

David (Dan Stevens) is a returned veteran who arrives at the home of the Petersons. He tells them that he was with their son when he died, and promised to check up on them. The Petersons immediately take to David and offer him a place to stay, and David in turn makes himself an indispensable part of the family. Only daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) feels like there’s something wrong with the newcomer, but she has no idea…

The Guest is gleeful genre entertainment, pure and simple. From the purple opening title font to the Argento/Carpenter-inspired finale, Wingard and Barrett go about things with an immaculate sense of style and a terrific sense of humour to.

The film is certainly self-aware and Wingard and Stevens are happy to clue is into the fact that David is clearly out of his mind from very early on. Stevens is fantastic as the ice-cold veteran, seamlessly switching gears from grinning psychopath to butter-wouldn’t-melt gentleman. He’s staring unblinkingly out of windows before he’s even started teaching Peterson’s son Luke (Brendan Meyer) how to handle bullies.

This sense of humour is vital but, like You’re Next, it never veers into parody. Barrett’s sharp script balances the larger-than-life sequences with well-observed character moments. Monroe is particularly good, Meyer makes Luke’s cautious acceptance of David plausible (and funny), while Sheila Kelley and Leland Orser put in good work as the grieving parents.

As much fun as Stevens is clearly having, it’s Wingard who really seems to be enjoying himself. He’s created a taut, hugely entertaining thriller that shows off both his keen sense of style (that final sequence is fantastic) as well as a growing confidence in action sequences (an Edgar Wright-inspired bar brawl is a stand-out). Things get increasingly ridiculous as the film progresses but Wingard’s confidence never wavers.

The Guest is a film that revels in the outrageousness of its premise, filled with blood, violence and style, and delivers a riotous, bone-crunching late night thrill.