A question often pondered during this 2014 thriller is: why didn’t they just hire the very similar-looking Ryan Gosling? We get his best impersonator instead. Should Ryan Gosling have played the role of stranger David, the film might’ve been a bit more favourable since Gosling has a likeability that is genuine and unmatched. While Dan Stevens is just fine, his failure to simply morph into Gosling completely is unnerving!
The most important lesson The Guest teaches is STAY WOKE, PEOPLE. The majority of the film is littered with constant, hopeless moments where this grieving family overcompensates to this dude who claims to know their now deceased son from the army. The son, the daughter and the parents are all ridiculous in their quick acceptance of them. The son in particular becomes very attached. A victim of bullying at school, David manipulates a bond with him after beating up all half a dozen of his bullies in a bar. This scene has all the lyrics of greatness but I couldn’t help but think someone as bulky and loving as Dwayne Johnson is the only current person in Hollywood who could get away with committing such violence independently.
Another thing to consider is the role of beauty when trying to appear trusting. David is scientifically beautiful, as though they got it from a forest growing endless versions of Western male beauty ideals. Actor Dan Stevens has looks that are so samey and obviously pretty that his good intentions are simply too good to be true. Yet the family – except the smart daughter who soon sees his true ways – remain convinced of his perfection, refusing to critically look at his features! Someone this perfect-looking is simply a fake.
Despite my woes with the family’s shared one dimensional personality, the latter half of the film is so creepily done that I want to reserve my next viewing for Halloween. Continuing from a few bits of senseless violence amongst a middle-of-nowhere scenery, the film concludes with an audio-visual DELIGHT in a Halloween-decorated school hall that is so over simulated with pumpkins and other scary bits, that you forget it’s all set up in a school. Our remaining characters walk through a maze-like set designed with mirrors and a fantastic soundtrack that sounds like Grimes but it’s really not. Things become hard to navigate, the trickery of the mirrors make it hard for daughter Anna to navigate as the person they once trusted could be lurking within the next opening! The tension increases with the music and the theme of everything is not what it seems is truly utilised with the mirrors.
Even though it’s clear the dude is shifty as hell from the first moment he steps onto the screen, there is still this element of ‘oh my god, did he really just do that’. Although my frustrations with the basis of the plot remain, the heavy reliance on music as a backdrop for scenes (Anna even makes David a mix CD!) and the locations (a diner, the Halloween disco, the open road where many murders take place) help provide an enjoyable sense of shock.