“The Guest” Shows Promise, Then Blows Up
By Skip Sheffield
British actor Dan Stevens has piercing baby blue eyes that could cut through anything with their menacing intensity.
I suspect Stevens’ peepers were enhanced with contact lenses for his role as the mysterious, too-good-to-be-true American Army veteran known as David in “The Guest,” a thriller by Simon Barrett (V/H/S, “You’re Next”) and directed by Adam Wingard.
David shows up at the front door of Laura Peterson (Sheila Kelley), who warily but unwisely lets in the handsome, smiling young military man who claims he was in the same company with Mrs. Peterson’s son Kevin, who was recently killed in action.
“David” claims it was Kevin’s deathbed wish for him to visit the Peterson family and tells each and every one that Kevin loved them.
Laura Peterson is immediately drawn in by the charming, helpful stranger. Her husband Spencer (Leland Orser) is initially suspicious, but David, a master of flattery, soon wins him over.
David proves himself a hero to middle school-aged Luke Peterson (Brendan Meyer) who has been mercilessly bullied by punk jocks. An incident in an offsite bar dispatches the bullies with extreme prejudice.
By this time it is clear to the viewer David may have a problem with Anger Management.
When David escorts underage but precocious Anna Peterson (Maika Monroe) to a wild party she should not be attending, David once again saves the day. When David asks one of Anna’s drug-dealing friends if he knows where he can get a gun, it is obvious to all but the densest viewer this guy David is big trouble.
“The Guest” is the kind of movie that builds a promising amount of suspense and ominous foreboding, only to blow it all in an orgy of cops who can’t shoot straight, machine guns that can’t kill, grenades, car chases and car crashes, all culminating in a confrontation in a creepy haunted house in a public school which conveniently has no law enforcement in sight until the bad stuff is over.
Still we are impressed with this Dan Stevens chap, who is best known for his role in “Downton Abbey,” which he gave up to branch into movies. It’s as if the steely special ops guy in “The Guest” and the drug-addled, revenge-seeking stoner in “Walk Among the Tombstones” are creatures from different planets. That’s what’s known as acting. Stevens next appears as Sir Lancelot in “Night at the Museum 3.”