Movie Review - The Guest

I saw this film at the AMC Loews Lincoln Square in New York City. Prior to the film, the theater showed this short promotional film that's meant to be an entertaining reminder for people to turn off their mobile devices. The short promo is a mock horror film that spoofs the fact that people make dumb decisions in horror movies. The Cabin in the Woods (2012) has a scene that similarly spoofs how people in horror films make dumb decisions. This latest feature from director Adam Wingard (You're Next) isn't an outright horror film. It begins as a drama, moves into slight action and then descends into horror film territory. Along the way, there are jarring edits and weird music cues to signal the pending horror, but like the short promo, it suffers from characters making dumb decisions. In that regard, it's probably suitable horror film fare that can go on the shelf with all the rest of them.

The dumb decisions from characters start with the titular one. Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) plays David Collins, a former army soldier who comes to visit the home of the Petersons. David shows up at their front door one day claiming to know Caleb Peterson, another army soldier who was reported dead. He claims to offer a message of love and help for the family in their time of grief, but to what end? Toward the end, David asks one character what was he expecting by coming there. The same could be asked of David himself. What was his long term plan?

The problem is perhaps he didn't have one because writer Simon Barrett didn't have one. At the end, it's suggested he's acting out some military program and that he's on auto-pilot. This suggestion takes away whatever agency David seemingly had, which makes him no better than the Terminator. His good looks and charm aren't enough. He's essentially a robot.

Chief among the characters who make dumb decisions is the mom, Laura Peterson, played by Sheila Kelley. From the beginning to the end, she basically gives fellatio to David. He could defecate on her face and she would lick it up. I suppose she's meant to be so desperate to hold onto her dead son, she'll hold onto David, but hers is just stupidity.

The father Spencer Peterson, played by Leland Orser, who registers some objection is dismissed with a beer or maybe we are to assume alcoholism contributes to his dumbness and his ridiculous change of heart letting David stay. It's certainly not the case with Luke, played by Brendan Meyer, the remaining son of the Petersons. He's incredibly dumb, but there could have been an explanation. Yet, the filmmakers sweep over it.

Luke is bullied in school. When David finds out about the bullying, David is able to exact revenge against the bullies. David also inspires Luke to fight back in an over-aggressive way. When Luke gets in trouble at school for doing so, David goes to the school with Laura, and not her husband, and David is able to intimidate the principal by implying Luke is gay and that he is the victim of a hate crime, so any action against Luke would make the family file a lawsuit.

There are several things wrong here. First, the fact that the principal could be so easily intimidated is dumb. Secondly, it's never confirmed if Luke is gay or not. The assumption is that Luke isn't gay, and this is just a clever lie by David, but if Luke is gay, it would better explain Luke's attraction to David, or his willingness to lick up David's defecation too.

Yet, that thread is dropped, once the movie goes full horror. For example, there is the predictable moment when David walks out the shower half-naked and wet in a towel. Predictably, the daughter Anna Peterson, played by Maika Monroe, is the one who runs into him like this. Given where the movie heads, it would have been more interesting if Luke had run into half-naked, army guy and got flustered.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for strong violence, language, some drug use and a scene of sexuality.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 39 mins.


Popular Posts