A soldier introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died in action. After the young man is welcomed into their home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence.
Following their previous collaborations You’re Next and V/H/S, director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett team up for another slasher thriller. The Peterson family are still grieving the loss of their son, Caleb, when a stranger turns up on their doorstep: David (Downtown Abbey’s Dan Stevens) says that he was a military buddy of their son during his soldiering days. He is quickly welcomed in by Caleb’s mum (Sheila Kelley) – to the indifference of dad (Leland Orser), and wariness of younger son, Luke (Brendan Meyer) and daughter, Anna (Maika Monroe).
Of course, you don’t have to be a horror aficionado to realise that David is not what he seems and in case you were in any doubt, Wingard’s knowingly dramatic, stabbing score helps to drive the point home: a throbbing synthesiser soundtrack that adds an 80s feel to the proceedings. At first, David appears to help his hosts, violently tackling the gang who are bullying Luke at school. However, when the family begin to question who he might really be, his violent tendencies escalate – and when the army becomes involved, he goes into meltdown.
If there’s one thing that can be said for The Guest it’s that all involved clearly love the horror-slasher genre and appear to have had a whale of time creating a film that pays homage to some classic movies of yore. The first half of the movie is a taught exercise in escalating tension, which nevertheless manages not to take itself too seriously.
Where does it go wrong? Well, it takes its time before the killings commence, and the second half crosses the line from homage to pastiche. A pointless climax in a Halloween Ball maze at Luke’s High School is laughable rather than sinister when a simple cat-and-mouse game at the Peterson household (like 2007’s The Strangers) may have provided more edge-of-seat drama.
Entertaining for the most part, it’s just a shame that the plot becomes increasingly ludicrous as the body count rises.