Capsule Review Film Review

TIFF Capsule Review: The Guest

September 14, 2014Ben MK

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When a stranger calls...

If You're Next made you nostalgic for '80s slasher flicks, then writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard's deliriously off-the-wall followup, The Guest, will surely make you yearn for the action-thrillers of the '80s and '90s. But unlike the current crop of shoot-em-up throwbacks — most notably, The Expendables series — this sly, subversive homage doesn't deal in bombastic set-pieces and marquee names. Rather, it's a darkly humorous and bloody romp through genre territory — one that finds its lead in Downton Abbey's Dan Stevens.


Stevens plays David Collins, an Afghanistan war veteran who mysteriously shows up on the doorstep of the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their recently-killed-in-action son, Caleb. He's welcomed by grieving mother Laura (Sheila Kelley), who invites him to stay, despite the objections of her husband, Spencer (Leland Orser). And in no time, David — thanks to his polite, Southern charm — has ingratiated himself into the family, even helping their younger son, Luke (Brendan Meyer), fight back against bullies. But when daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) suspects all may not be as it appears, she uncovers the sinister truth, unwittingly unleashing David's violent wrath on their entire community.

With a performance that channels the likes of Paul Walker and Jim Caviezel, Stevens is a revelation in the title role, conjuring up charisma as well as stone-cold, maniacal intensity (not to mention a spot-on American accent). Likewise, Monroe impresses with her feisty turn — echoing The Terminator's Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese both rolled into one — while the story — with its shades of Universal Soldier and The Bourne Identity — proves to be the perfect playground for Wingard and Barrett to showcase their now-trademark brand of retro-inspired schlock. And if you've seen any of the duo's previous films, you'll know what a devilishly demented playground it is.  Ben Mk

The Guest is receiving its Canadian premiere as part of TIFF 2014's Midnight Madness programme and is currently scheduled for a September 2014 release by D Films. Photo credit: D Films.

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