Writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard, the duo behind 2011‘s You’re Next, have followed up their home invasion cult classic with a solid, satisfying B-movie thriller about a mysterious stranger who infiltrates the lives of an average American family. Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens brings a quiet menace to the lead role of “the guest”––a soldier returned from overseas who claims to have not only served alongside the family’s son, but also watched him die in action.
Promptly accepted as one of their own, Stevens begins to resolve problems facing various members of the family––with violence, if necessary. In fact, much of The Guest is devoted to Stevens’ soft-spoken brand of determined bas-assery, as he swaggers from encounter to encounter, cracking skulls with a growly half-smirk. The entire film is essentially a montage of sweet revenge scenarios––the filmmakers never met a bad guy they didn’t want Stevens to immediately head-smash.
And as a straight-up action picture, The Guest is a undeniable success. The crunchy fight scenes are filmed with a confident finesse that highlights Wingard’s progression as an action filmmaker, his reliance on slurpy sound effects notwithstanding. The entire picture sports the quaint, old-school charm of revenge classics like Pale Rider and Walking Tall.
Once Stevens cover story begins to fall apart, things get a bit muddy, as his mysterious origins are somewhat underwritten. But Wingard doesn’t place too fine a point on this detail, instead focusing his talents on the bully-busting mayhem that makes this bomb tick.