Rated: R for strong violence, language, some drug use and a scene of sexuality. Reviewed by: Jim Release date: September 17, 2014 Released by: Picturehouse Films
A campy, retro touch with visceral thrills is felt for fans who especially enjoy late-night screenings with The Guest from the maker who last impressed his target demographic with the rather cunning gore fest You're Next.
Adam Wingard's stylish way with the imagery and costumes in polishing the material with craft production contributions to lay out a colorful, if unoriginal genre piece. One where the climax isn't that far removed from what The Expendables aimed to accomplish.
An inscrutable stranger who calls himself David (the UK's Dan Stevens, known for small-screen favorite Downtown Abbey) appears at the home of the mother (Sheila Kelley) who recently lost her Army son mentioning that he was one of his comrade-in-arms and close friends.
This inveigler has something that the deceased's family likes, including heavy-drinking husband Spencer (Leland Orser), as well as wimpy son Luke (Brendan Meyer) and fractious daughter Anna (Maika Monroe, whose wardrobe at times is reminiscent of Madonna from her "Material Girl" days).
After being welcomed as one of the family, David at least circumstantially seems to be related to a series of untimely deaths stoking the curiosity of Luke and Anna. The latter's extra prying attracts the attention of a surreptitious military agent (Lance Reddick) who convokes his colleagues to eradicate a presumed much perilous presence.
The visuals and violent tendencies may feel anachronistic, but in laying out the action The Guest recalls probably for those who grew up on VHS Wingard's estimable influences who produced the likes of Halloween and Manhunter. Stevens' obsequious, wolfish presence stirs things up in a darkly, vibrant, splashy manner as the era of The Terminator, Aliens and Commando somehow has a contemporary resonance. Even after David is reportedly "dead." Even though the filmmaking isn't ambitious enough to even try and reinvent the wheel a little what results from enlivening the past is more of an inspired pastiche than a zany conventional cliche.