Movies You Missed: The Guest | Live Culture
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Friday, January 16, 2015

Movies You Missed: The Guest

Posted By on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 at 3:56 PM

click image Would you invite him in? - PICTUREHOUSE
  • Picturehouse
  • Would you invite him in?
This week in movies you missed: Do you long for the days of watching nifty little thrillers on VHS? The latest from horror director Adam Wingard (You're Next) harks back to those rental finds of the '80s in a big way.

What You Missed
Who wouldn't trust a face like David's? The young Iraq veteran (Dan Stevens) has a sweet smile, a forthright gaze and the kind of guileless blue eyes that turn cynics into believers.

That's what happens when David drops in on the small-town Petersons, who are still grieving their son Caleb, killed in action. Part of Caleb's unit, David says he's here to deliver their loved one's last message.

Mom Laura (Sheila Kelley) begs David to stay the night. Dad (Leland Orser) is suspicious — till the guest proves to be the perfect sounding board for his workplace woes.

Soon David has moved into Caleb's room and taken his place in the family. He shows teenage son Luke (Brendan Meyer) how to neutralize the bullies who torment him, and counsels sullen daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) to leave her stoner boyfriend and get her life together.

But Anna harbors doubts about David. Not even a glimpse of his ridiculously buff bod emerging from the shower will make her forget that he's just a bit too perfect.

Why You Missed It
Since last September, The Guest has played 53 U.S. theaters. It's available on DVD and Blu-ray, or for streaming rental on Amazon, iTunes, YouTube and other outlets.
click image David in Earnest Super-Patriot mode - PICTUREHOUSE
  • Picturehouse
  • David in Earnest Super-Patriot mode

Should You Keep Missing It?
My 20-point, highly scientific scale for the assessment of indie films:

1-4 points: Does it look pretty?
click image What is this, "Miami Vice"? - PICTUREHOUSE
  • Picturehouse
  • What is this, "Miami Vice"?
3/4. Sorry, I didn't notice the cinematography. I was busy staring into those blue, blue eyes.

I did catch some nice shots of New Mexico, and '80s-tastic use of color in a few scenes.

1-4 points: Does anything happen?
4/4. Hells, yeah!

If you put cult classic The Stepfather (1987 version) in a blender with a Bourne movie and added a dash of Prom Night, this might be the movie you'd get. That's my way of saying more happens than you'd expect, and possibly too much.

Writer Simon Barrett (You're Next) starts with a simple, effective situation — the charming stranger winning over a vulnerable family — and then sends the plot spinning in unexpected directions. Do those new directions pay off? In terms of dramatic resolution, nope. In terms of setups for creative action scenes that will make you both cringe in horror and laugh, absolutely.

1-4 points: Does what happens make sense?
2/4. See above re: too many plot vectors. With them come plot holes and plot loose ends.

However, the movie retains a strong emotional core and a sense of consistent motivation, if you buy into the premise of Stevens' character.

click image Luke and Anna manage not to cause too many shout-at-the-screen moments. - PICTUREHOUSE
  • Picturehouse
  • Luke and Anna manage not to cause too many shout-at-the-screen moments.
1-4 points: Do the characters seem like real people? Failing that, do they look pretty?
4/4. Stevens is best known for "Downton Abbey," but The Guest makes a case for him as a movie star. From start to finish, this is a riveting sociopath performance.

In the very first scene, the viewer notices something off about David that Mrs. Peterson doesn't — when she turns away, that smile of his crooks a little too far to one side, mutating toward a predatory sneer. Or maybe it's a glitch in his all-American Boy Scout programming. Whatever it is, we know something's wrong, yet he continues to charm us, too.

Our own ambivalence makes it more believable when Anna's feelings about David flip-flop — even if we do want to yell at her to "Stop falling for him, goldarnit!" To her credit, she manages to be a lot smarter than the heroine of your average charming-stalker movie, and a decent character in her own right.

1-4 points: Does the movie give us a reason to care about anything happening on screen?
3/4. The Guest isn't a profound movie, though I guess you could use it to start a conversation about how veterans are perceived in America. I never lost my awareness that it was a pulpy melodrama, and enjoyed every second of that pulp.

The scene where David confronts a gang of high school bullies in a roadhouse especially stands out. And the big set piece that takes place in a cheesy Halloween spook house just because? It brought the glory days of VHS back to mind in a big way.

In sum, The Guest is more evidence that young directors are doing with '80s B-movies what Quentin Tarantino does with '70s B-movies. While originality is great, I prefer a self-aware or a straight-faced pastiche over a tepid remake of those VHS classics any day.

Verdict: 16/20. If you're cheap and want to wait for this on Netflix, check out You're Next there. I didn't enjoy it as much as The Guest, but it's a fun twist on the done-to-death home-invasion genre.

This Week in Theaters
Finally, Vermonters can see Foxcatcher, produced by UVM alum Jon Kilik (Roxy and Savoy). Read my interview with Kilik here. American Sniper is now in wide release, too; review here.

Michael Mann directed the cyberthriller Blackhat. Kevin Hart messes with a shy guy's nuptials in The Wedding Ringer. Kids' flick Paddington is reportedly pretty sweet.

This Week in Your Living Room
Gone Girl, Love Is Strange, Men, Women & Children, The Two Faces of January, A Walk Among the Tombstones.

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You're Next
Rated R · 96 min. · 2013
Official Site:
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Producer: Keith Calder, Jessica Wu, Simon Barrett and Kim Sherman
Cast: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, A.J. Bowen, Nicholas Tucci, Barbara Crampton, Wendy Glenn, Rob Moran, Maragaret Laney, Amy Seimetz and Ti West
The Wedding Ringer
Rated R · 101 min. · 2015
Official Site:
Director: Jeremy Garelick
Writer: Jeremy Garelick and Jay Lavender
Producer: Adam Fields and William Packer
Cast: Kevin Hart, Josh Gad, Kaley Cuoco-Sweeting, Ken Howard, Cloris Leachman, Jenifer Lewis, Mimi Rogers and Olivia Thirlby
Rated R · 134 min. · 2013
Official Site:
Director: Bennett Miller
Writer: E. Max Frye and Dan Futterman
Producer: Megan Ellison, Bennett Miller, Jon Kilik and Anthony Bregman
Cast: Channing Tatum, Steve Carell, Mark Ruffalo, Sienna Miller and Anthony Michael Hall
Rated PG · 95 min. · 2014
Official Site:
Director: Paul King
Writer: Michael Bond and Paul King
Cast: Ben Whishaw, Nicole Kidman, Hugh Bonneville, Sally Hawkins, Julie Walters, Jim Broadbent, Madeleine Harris, Samuel Joslin and Tim Downie
The Guest
Rated R · 97 min. · 2014
Official Site:
Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Cast: Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Joel David Moore, Lance Reddick, Leland Orser, Brendan Meyer, Sheila Kelley, Chase Williamson and Jesse Luken
American Sniper
Rated R · 134 min. · 2014
Official Site:
Director: Clint Eastwood
Writer: Jason Dean Hall and Chris Kyle
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Keir O'Donnell, Max Charles and Owain Yeoman
Rated R · 133 min. · 2015
Official Site:
Director: Michael Mann
Writer: Morgan Davis Foehl and Michael Mann
Producer: Michael Mann, Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Viola Davis, Tang Wei, Wang Leehom, William Mapother, Holt McCallany, John Ortiz, Ritchie Coster, Tracee Chimo and Jason Butler Harner


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Sorry there are no upcoming showtimes for American Sniper, Blackhat, Foxcatcher, Paddington, The Guest, The Wedding Ringer, or You're Next

About The Author

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison

Margot Harrison is the Associate Editor at Seven Days; she coordinates literary and film coverage. In 2005, she won the John D. Donoghue award for arts criticism from the Vermont Press Association.


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