Review: Tense 'The Guest' is a killer of a movie

Tom Long

"The Guest" is a welcome entry to the murder machine film genre.

Murder machines are those highly trained — usually by the government — killer types who, in films like this, inevitably go a bit bonkers and start doing away with people. Generally they have no feelings, are ingenious and get off a few good quips. Think Bourne gone bad.

The Bourne-gone-bad boy here is David (Dan Stevens, thoroughly shedding his "Downton Abbey" sheen). David shows up unexpectedly at a suburban home one day saying he was the best friend of the family's dead soldier son. The mother (Sheila Kelley) invites him in and sure enough, there's David standing in a photo of her son's military buddies on the mantlepiece. Mom asks David to stay for a while.

When Dad (Leland Orser) gets home, he's a bit suspicious, but after a few beers David has won him over. That leaves shy younger son Luke (Brendan Meyer) and saucy daughter Anna (up-and-comer Maika Monroe) to be convinced.

Luke's won over when David pummels some football players who've been bullying the kid. Of course, this is also the first sign that not all is right with David.

Anna is just starting to trust the family's visitor when people — Dad's boss, for example — start dying in odd ways. So she starts investigating David, which sets off his inner alarms.

It's not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but director Adam Wingard brings a nice, measured tension to the script by Simon Barrett before letting all heck break loose. And Stevens balances affability and violence well, making for that most effective character, the likable monster.

Yes, it's all just a regurgitation of murder machine tropes — right up to the very end shot — but as regurgitations go, "The Guest" is fine, sick fun.

'The Guest'


Rated R

for strong violence, language, some drug use and a scene of sexuality

Running time: 99 minutes