But The Guest gets it right. It's a simple tale, rivettingly told, with good characters (beautifully acted, it must be said) and a constant brooding sense of imminent violence — which eventually pays off, both satisfyingly and rather shockingly.
The story is simple. An American family is grieving for the loss of their soldier son in combat in the Middle East. When the son's friend and fellow soldier turns up to pay his condolences, he soon insinuates his way into the bosom of the family. Yes, you can guess that the 'friend' is not what he seems, but that in no way lessens the pleasure of what follows.
The film even survives a third act lurch into black ops/corporate conspiracy territory which I was worried would kill it dead. But no, this nifty little dark-hearted action movie just keeps on trucking. It is also often the funniest black comedy since Heathers.
The Guest is set in a small midwest town around Halloween (gorgeously and moodily evoked by cinematographer Robby Baumgartner) and is in some ways reminiscent of John Carpenter's movie of that name, although vastly superior. It's directed by Adam Wingard, who made a considerable impression with You're Next another superior, scary thriller. The excellent script is by Simon Barrett who also wrote You're Next (while working as a private eye!).
The thing I liked best about the movie is that the characters are smart: the teenage daughter in the family (Maika Monroe) rapidly susses out that there's something terribly wrong about their guest, and tries to take action... But nothing turns out they way she — or the audience — expects.
Maika Monroe is terrific. Leland Orser is excellent as the dad. But top honours go to Dan Stevens as the guest himself. He's wonderful in the role. And his American accent is so convincing I had no idea that he was the same Dan Stevens as the British actor in Downton Abbey.
Also, notable music by Steve Moore and splendid production design by Thomas Hammock.
A great little movie. A classic. See it.
(Image credits: The black and purple poster is from the Consulting Detective. The rest are from Imp Awards except for the red one, from Abando Movies.)