“The Guest” is the ultimate B movie, and is deeply aware of that fact. It excels in everything it sets out to do, and does it all with self-aware cheek and charm. Inspired from films like “The Terminator” and “Halloween”, but with the ultra-stylish approach of recent neo-noir films like “Drive”, “The Guest” manages to be a coherent synthesis of the shlock of 1980s thrillers and the style of 21st century retro 1980s crime films.
Dan Stevens is spellbinding as the mysterious “David”. The man just exudes charm; from the way he so quickly integrates into the family unit, to his unique type of advice and help, to his keen perception of what people need most (emotional support for the mother, a drinking buddy and thus enabler for the father, musical bonding with the daughter, friendship and protection for the son). His eyes, however, are piercing and as frightening and inhuman as any of the monsters of 1980s films “The Guest” draws from when they need to be. The film wouldn’t work without Stevens, he’s absolutely magnetic in the role.
Unlike a similar retro 1980s film like “Drive”, “The Guest” is cheeky about its genre conventions, and often plays them for humour rather than straight. The sound effects (particularly the slasher noise “drop” sound effects) are a big part of this, as does Steven’s performance (his face after he rolls the grenades is hilarious). The characters at the ending are very self-aware about the ridiculousness. It’s not that the film is playing it all as a joke, just that it’s so self-aware of the genre conventions it’s using that it plays with them in a tongue-in-cheek tone.
The film is enormous fun. Every component of the film is executed perfectly – the fantastic soundtrack (much of it diagetic), the excellent fight choreography, Steven’s charming performance, the story aware of the bizarre elements at is escalates, everything just works fantastically.
I give it three and a half shots, and a burned CD.