The Guest (2014) Revisited – Horror Movie Review

Director Adam Wingard’s The Guest, starring Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe, may be the best horror movie you never saw

This is really something special. A movie that resonates with me to such a degree that it is etched upon all that I love within the genre. It feels like a twisted take on a certain Marvel hero who loves to show off his patriotism—and love for his country—through blood, bullets, and even a bar brawl. All he was missing was a vibranium shield. This film involves a charismatic, stone-cold stoic, and reserved antagonist that you sometimes cheer for, even if he has a bloodlust towards innocent bystanders. I would like to defend myself by saying that it’s not just a cult-classic, but a bona fide, badass flick that displays multiple elements of thriller, comedy, action, and horror. It gels together so damn well, that you can’t believe it’s not butter. Today we’re discussing Adam Wingard’s 2014, stranger-danger film, The Guest (watch it HERE). And it may just be one of the Best Horror–No wait, scratch that. You know what, this IS one of the Best Horror Movies You Never Saw.

Director Adam Wingard has been making horror films for quite some time. Most notably, another favorite of mine, the 2011 horror invasion slasher, You’re Next. Mr. Wingard has a clear, intuitive vision in his films. Not only does he have a great pedigree and knowledge when it comes to action, but his characters are also witty and smart. They shatter the stereotypes we are so accustomed to within the horror genre. When I finished watching You’re Next, I was only more excited for what he had up his sleeve. And while he directed some segments in various anthology films, his next feature film wouldn’t be until 2014. Teaming up with his VHS and You’re Next scribe, Simon Barrett, they set to make a thriller about a guest from hell.

It’s been said that Simon Barrett originally had an alternate premise to The Guest, which he stalled on and later banished to the shadow realm. However, when Adam Wingard pitched his very different take to Barrett, Simon took their ideas and melded them together. The screenplay was completed just eight weeks later, and shooting commenced in the summer of 2013. The film had a budget of just $5 million as cameras got rolling in New Mexico.

The Guest centers on the Peterson family, Anna, Luke, Laura, and Spencer as they are visited by a soldier by the name of David. David was the “best friend” of their oldest son, Caleb who was killed in action and served on the battlefield together. The Peterson family welcomes David to stay while they get their priorities and grievances in order. Sounds like a lovely, and courteous affair by the Petersons. Oh if only they had realized they were in a horror movie. David involves himself in the personal lives of the Petersons, and they take a liking to him. However, when strange occurrences, along with a detective snooping around, and suddenly David doesn’t look so great. Luke and Anna come to realize that the man they’re sheltering has ulterior motives that may just be detrimental to their home life. And life in general.

Spoilers here for those who haven’t seen this movie and want to go in completely fresh.

The Guest Dan Stevens

Because David harbors some unexpected government secrets that could put the Peterson family in the crosshairs of not just David, but other bad guys as well. War is hell; a despicable thing. When a human being is sent to that travesty, and the horrors they see are unfolded, it takes a toll and they’re forever changed. If they’re lucky enough to return home, rarely are they the same person. They come back as something different. David came back as a monster in disguise.

And I know that this is a horror movie but dammit if this movie doesn’t have some incredible action. There are multiple scenes that display fast-paced and brutal fist ballet that puts it right up there with action flicks like John Wick, The Matrix, or Face Off. And where those movies go hard with the CGI, we’re treated to a ton of practical effects here. Who needs CGI when real movie magic is full-on practical here? This is enough to give Christopher Nolan a magical tingle in his pantalones if he watched this. It’s just that good.

The Guest wouldn’t be as amazing as it was if it weren’t for the lead of David, played by Dan Stevens. Director Adam Wingard always wanted Dan for the role but told him he needed to bulk up and be in peak physical shape prior to production. This wasn’t exactly a shock as Stevens was emaciated and looked like Christian Bale’s role in The Machinist. So Dan spent two times a day working out and packed on a whopping 25 pounds of muscle and six-pack abs. Believe it or not, they waited to shoot the infamous shirtless scene where David is in the Peterson house so he was able to get as much muscle on as possible. They wanted to be able to use that specific shot in the trailers. They wanted to sexually objectify David and fetishize him so that people would be into a character that was essentially bad and cunning in nature. David is a cold, calculated, and ruthless antagonist, but he never shows it at the start. He is cool, reserved, and displays alpha wolf components, only to strike like a scorpion at a moment’s notice. If you notice in the film, he rarely blinks. This would leave the impression that there is something seriously wrong with David, but no one would catch on while watching the film. But you can’t help but wonder if David is just a good guy under the control of a failed experiment, or if he is just truly sinister as well? Maybe it’s a mix of both, which makes him the perfect specimen under the super-soldier program. The guy can handle all types of firearms, does excessively well in hand-to-hand combat, and sure knows how to carry a beer keg.

There are also great standouts from the supporting cast, most notably Maika Monroe, who plays Anna. Maika Monroe starred in some other great films post-The Guest like another cult classic It Follows as well as the upcoming Longlegs. There is also the late, great, Lance Reddick of John Wick fame who plays Major Carver. Carver plays the head of the KPG In this and is just as badass as David. Both display militaristic integrity and are always a few steps ahead of the curve; although David runs through him like a knife through butter. You also have father, Spencer Peterson played by Leland Orser who has seen his fair share of horror films like Alien Resurrection, and Seven. May I add he has one of the fucking gnarliest Alien deaths in the whole franchise. And lastly Mr. Papa Giorgio, Russ Griswold himself, Ethan Embry as a gun dealer who gets into a situation that he should have avoided right from the jump. Your luck has just run out my friend.

The Guest Maika Monroe

Since I put The Guest so high on that pedestal, or Mt. Rushmore of “Best Unseen Horror Films” if you will, I should probably get into why. There always comes a point in time when you pop in a movie on a day that you are home, just to kill some time and not meet any lofty expectations. And once the credit rolls, you have to pick your jaw off the floor. THIS. MOVIE. DOES. JUST. THAT. Big claims, I know, but here me out. Let’s start off with one of the big moments of the film: that bar fight bully beatdown. A scene that elevates and hits a fever pitch until breaking into a disastrous, bone-crunching melody that you just need to root for the bad guy. Because David IS.A.BAD.GUY. However, in this scene he’s more of a wicked guardian angel who would have fit nicely in that infamous church scene from Kingsman. It starts when David takes the younger son, Luke out for a drink. But it’s true purpose is to get back at the jock bullies that hurt Luke. It’s a scene that stays calm until the switch flips and all-out chaos erupts, hitting revenge-fueled epic proportions. Not only is the fight choreography great, but the lead-up is incredible. There’s David buying the jocks some feminine cocktails to rile them up. It all ends with David scaring the bartender into letting him and Luke go, which was a total chef’s kiss. Although I’ll be honest, cosmopolitans on the rocks aren’t bad on a tropical island, give it a try.

Let’s not forget the scene capper, with David rolling a few grenades into the diner to eliminate those who know about him. It all leads up to an amazing shootout when David realizes the KPG is after him. They’re a government organization that specializes in creating super-soldiers. This leads to an all-out war at-home scenario between David, the family members, and Major Carver and the KPG agents trying to eliminate the threat of David from going haywire. Gives John Wick a run for its money. And then we have the epic showdown at the Halloween high school dance between David, Carver, Luke, and Anna. It’s hard not to appreciate a slasher/thriller hybrid that takes place inside a school that involves foggy dance floors, neon lights, and even funhouse-style mazes. It’s all a delight to see David do some dirty work while his “David’s playlist,” cd is playing on the speakers that Anna gave him prior.

The Guest unfortunately made just $2.7 million at the box office. Given that 5-million-dollar budget, that meant it didn’t even break even. Truly a shame, considering just how amazing this film is. It has a critical reception of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. Remarkable numbers for a movie that has literally crept under most people’s radar. A total disservice to the film itself. The Guest is a movie that belongs on your DVD shelf, no questions asked. For such a simple title, it goes to great lengths to encapsulate the shitstorm about to hit The Peterson’s doorstep courtesy of their special guest. Looks can be deceiving, and they serve as a reminder to not give in to temptation or friendship just based on appearances. The Guest should have spawned a sequel as its ending is a love letter to splatter flicks of the 70’s and 80’s. Hell, I’d say the ending is so great that even Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving had to copy it for its own. That’s just a subjective opinion, since that ending has been done before, I’m looking at you too, Halloween Resurrection, for fuck’s sake. But hey, the comparison is there.

Now go check out The Guest, as it’s highly deserving of this title, potentially crowning itself as the head honcho of the most overlooked horror film to date. I mean hell, I’d even say that synth score is just as good as Blade Runner 2049. Bold claim, but I dare say you will not be disappointed.

A couple previous episodes of the Best Horror Movie You Never Saw series can be seen below. To see more, and to check out some of our other shows, head over to the JoBlo Horror Originals YouTube channel – and subscribe while you’re there!

Source: Arrow in the Head

About the Author

7 Articles Published

Paul Bookstaber is currently a video editor and writer for Joblo Media Inc, and loves all things movies, especially the horror genre! Paul was also a prior video producer/video editor for the NBA, traveling around the country and attending live broadcasted events for four NBA seasons. Paul is also an avid basketball player, loves spending time with his family, and watching anything and everything that peaks his interest. Paul has been a massive fan of Joblo spanning back to 2006, and is proud to be a part of this tremendous team of film enthusiasts and cinema lovers alike! Some of Paul’s favorite films in no particular order are Heat, Road to Perdition, Collateral, The Batman, The Dark Knight, Seven, Prisoners, Blade Runner 2049, Terminator 2, There Will Be Blood, Last Samurai, Top Gun Maverick, The Prestige, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Halloween 78’ and Whiplash.