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Sundance 2014 Movie Review: ‘The Guest’

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Last August, director Adam Wingard whipped up the horror genre into a deserved frenzy when Lionsgate finally released his You’re Next. Filled with amazing kills and huge laughs, it was a breath of fresh air in a year already full of surprisingly terrific genre offerings. Now, Wingard brings The Guest to the Park City at Midnight category at this year’s Sundance. With more energy than most films know what to do with, Wingard — along with his partner in crime, writer Simon Barrett — have given us the love child of Starman, The Terminator, and The Bourne films that we didn’t know we needed.

TheGuestDavid (Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens) arrives at the home of the Petersons’ who are still grieving the loss of their son Caleb in Afghanistan. While Luke (Brendan Meyer) takes a liking to David as he helps him gain some self-confidence to deal with bullying at school, his sister Anna (Maika Monroe) just doesn’t trust him. Tension starts to mount when one of Anna’s friends is killed, and her father’s (Leland Orser) co-worker commits suicide, prompting him to get a promotion. And she’s flat out told by the Army that David is actually “David,” a participant in an experiment that’s turned him into a deadly weapon on the run.

Say what you want about Wingard, but he’ll do whatever he wants. The Guest is a welcome return to the anything goes and bigger is better action clichés of the ’80s. The music instantly calls to mind the films of John Carpenter — another lesson learned from making You’re Next. Wingard isn’t scared to jump from comedy to action to possible sci-fi at the blink of an eye here. Keep your eyes peeled for some self-referential Easter eggs.

TheGuest2Wingard also outdoes most big budget action films on what can only be assumed as one percent of their budgets. The final scene is another hilarious gotcha moment that will make it hard to wipe the grin off your face leaving the theater. Stevens is hilarious as the murderous heartthrob and, if this was the ’80s, he’d probably have posters hung up on geek girls’ walls. Wingard is at the top of his game with no sign of slowing down, and I can’t wait to see what he delivers next.

Photos courtesy of Sundance Institute

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About Cinenerd

A Utah based writer, born and raised in Salt Lake City, UT for better and worse. Cinenerd has had an obsession with film his entire life, finally able to write about them since 2009, and the only thing he loves more are his wife and their two wiener dogs (Beatrix Kiddo and Pixar Animation). He is accredited with the Sundance Film Festival and a member of the Utah Film Critics Association.