The Guest (2014)

Adam Wingard’s (“You’re Next”) latest genre-defying horror/action/thriller hybrid, “The Guest,” delivers the shocks with a bullet!

Set during the Halloween season and even climaxing inside a high school haunted maze, Adam Wingard’sThe Guest” uses the dark holiday as a backdrop for a tension-filled, slow twisting corkscrew of a tale that explores issues as diverse as the modern dysfunctional family, loss & grief, combat veterans re-entering society, PTSD and military programming.

Oh, and it’s also a slasher film—sort of.

It’s all packaged in orange-and-black wrapping paper and peppered with a 80s synth score worthy of John Carpenter. Be on the lookout for horror geek homages to movies like “Halloween III: Season of the Witch.”

Dan Stevens (“A Walk Among the Tombstones”) burns with steely blue-eyed intensity as David, a recently discharged combat veteran who arrives on the doorstep of the Peterson family one afternoon, introducing himself as a close service brother of their departed son who was killed in action during a military exercise in Iraq. David tells the grieving mother that he promised her son during his final moments that he would deliver his last messages and check up on the family’s welfare.

There’s even a picture of David with their departed son’s military unit sitting on the fireplace mantel, so they have no reason not to believe his sincerity and they invite him to stay with them for a few days while he gets his plans for the future sorted out.

David’s charming “Yes, sir” and “No, mam” demeanor quickly earns the trust of even the father, who at first was the least interested in David staying in the family home. Only teenaged daughter, Anna, played by Maika Monroe seems to think there might be something not quite right with this stranger who outwardly seems as perfect as Captain America.

The youngest son, Luke (Brendan Meyer), an outcast at school, develops a bond with David after David violently takes revenge on the high school bullies who beat him up regularly. The Peterson’s lives continue to get better the longer David stays with them. Their problems seem to get eliminated one-by-one. The father gets a long deserved promotion, but only because his boss is killed in an apparent murder/suicide.

Just who is David really, a dark avenger or a total psychopath?

To spoil any of the movie’s third act twists would ruin a lot of the fun, but I can promise you a hail of bullets, car crashes, explosions and graphic switchblade violence.

The Guest” is both a throwback to the action thrillers of the late 80s/early 90s and a fresh spin on the modern horror genre. I especially enjoyed all the Halloween love on display throughout the film from vintage cutout decorations to the haunted maze finale. Recommended!

The Phantom of The Ville

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