The Guest – Review (Spoiler Free)

Audacious, stylish and bloody, The Guest ignites, parodies & worships its thriller genre in equal measure…

When a family receive a knock on the door they open it to a handsome and well mannered man (Dan Stevens) who tells them that he served with their son in the military before he was killed. The welcome him in with open arms, relishing the chance to hear stories about their son and his love for them. But perhaps they shouldn’t have been quite so trusting of their new and possibly dangerous guest as the film begins to twist and turn in all sorts of unexpected ways. This love letter to 80’s cinema blends synth, action and horror together in order to fashion one of the most exciting and slightly crazy thrillers in recent years.

One of the great and unexpected surprises in The Guest is Dan Stevens. He’s best known to the world as Matthew Crawley from ITV’s Downton Abbey however three years ago he set out to America in search of shaking that particular image off, and he has certainly achieved it. With his flawless American accent and perfect smile he seems every inch the American hero; one could almost imagine him playing Captain America in fact. However as the film starts getting murkier he brings both a believable violence to the screen and a cutting sense of humour which leaves us sitting somewhere between being attracted to and scared of him. It’s a great and energetic performance and leaves me excited to see what he does next.

As we enter the final act there is perhaps a slight shift towards the more expected and conventional, however unlike some other critics I don’t think that that is necessarily a bad thing as it forms part of the film’s knowing tone and genre faithfulness. What it certainly doesn’t do is eclipse the film’s otherwise inventive plotting and intelligent dialogue. There’s little here which you haven’t seen before in horror and action movies of the 80’s, however it’s all about how its presented here. As the film mutates from one thing to another we are reminded that we aren’t supposed to be taking it all entirely seriously but instead just enjoying the ride, and that’s an easy thing to do with it’s strong humour and bloody action.

There are many out there who claim this is a better movie than Refn’s Drive. It’s easy to see why the films invite comparison with the synth drenched portraits of a lone figure in an updated 80’s action movie. But that’s where the comparisons really should end for this is not a complex deconstruction of its genre but instead is an incredibly faithful action thriller which pays homage to its predecessors whilst also injecting the genre with a fresh energy and sense of excitement. It’s not as intelligent as Drive, instead its sort of its energetic and pulpier younger cousin.


What is the film’s greatest strength? Dan Stevens’ performance.

Its greatest weakness? There are a couple of small supporting performances which let it down a little.

Would I see it again? Absolutely, it’s plenty of fun and should help Stevens on to more varied roles in the future.

Thanks for reading, please do fire your thoughts out in the comment box below!


  1. Adele · · Reply

    Another great review and will put it on my never-ending list of ones to watch. It will certainly be interesting to see Dan Stevens in such a role!

    1. Thank you, yeah I think you’ll find that this is something of a departure from Downton!

  2. Sterling review. I really, really enjoyed this. I picked it up after browsing a lot of really positive reviews last year, many for them saying how cool Dan Stevens was in it. They were certainly right!

    1. Cheers Tom, really glad that you also dug this one. I have been seeking it out for a while now after (like yourself) reading plenty of good reviews. You seen much more of Monroe’s work?

      1. Not much more, but I did really enjoy her as the lead in recent indie horror ‘It Follows.’ She was quite good in that too. And by good I mean sexy.

        1. Haha I have been meaning to check that one out or a while actually. I’ve now seen Still Alice by the way and Moore was, predictably, very very good in it. Arguably better than Cotillard in Two Days, One Night…

          1. I’m really bummed I decided to pass on Still Alice while it was hanging out here. It was in the art house theater for a long, long time esp after it received so many accolades at the Academy Awards. I’ll be sure to grab a rental very soon. I am hit and miss with Moore but when she’s good, she’s really really good.

          2. I am a huge fan of Moore so naturally I’ve been desperate to see it. Finally caught it a couple of days ago and she really is on top form…

  3. Lukas · · Reply

    One of my favorites from last year. Wingard is great at genre pictures.

    1. If I’m honest it’s the only one of his I’ve seen, something which I need to correct ASAP….

  4. Great review. Very curious about this one.

    1. Thanks, it will be interesting to hear your thoughts on this if you do get around to checking it out.

      1. I do want to see it, especially to compare with Drive, which I wasn’t the biggest fan of.

        1. Hmm I prefer Drive but it would be rather interesting to see which you prefer!

  5. I freaking LOVED The Guest! I thought it was one of the best films we have gotten in ages, it was so super stylish. I can compare aspects of it to Drive, but I don’t think they are the same :/ Great work here as always James!

    1. It was lots of fun wasn’t it! Yeah they are very different films with a little overlap here and there. Thanks Zoë!

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