A bloke called David (Dan Stevens) shows up at a recently bereaved family’s house, claiming to have served in the army with their son. He ends up living there, for some reason, then secretly kills people they know, for some reason, leading the mother to tell him she doesn’t know how she would manage without him, forgetting all the awful things that have happened in her life since he arrived. Then he kills some more people, for some reason.
A mishmash of various better films, the scarce moments of originality in this trash heap are even worse than the hackneyed, clichéd and poorly executed scenes nicked from other movies and made worse, like they’ve been filmed from the back of the cinema.
There’s a particular strand of films that believe they can construct a mystery with no pay-off, or with an explanation so hurried you almost miss it. It’s something I complained about in my recent review of The Rover, and The Guest is no different. It’s agonising to watch the obvious hints about the truth of the man’s identity come to fruition without so much as a twist or turn along the way, and when the final explanation comes for why he does what he does, it makes an episode of Scooby-Doo look like Oldboy.
It involves a secret military branch, which, after 100 minutes, we still have no idea what it does. It has a 3 letter acronym for a name, like a tacky alcopop, leaving its most senior member to refer to it simply as “military police” in the hope that whoever he’s talking to, like the audience, won’t ask any questions.
The cast is made up of actors who look like better actors who had the sense to turn this down. Stevens looks like a bargain basement Ryan Gosling, hardly surprising with this film’s similarities to Drive, with shades of a bad Matthew Goode. The father of the family, Leland Orser, resembles Sean Penn, and the head of the secret military branch (Lance Reddick) is a less furious Nick Fury, right down to his costume (minus eye patch). The only strong link in the cast is youngster Brendan Meyer, who brings some much-needed likeability to an otherwise limp and forgettable ensemble.
The plot is so bad that if you think about it for longer than a second it completely falls apart. The long-awaited pay-off to the nonsense comes in the form of a last minute bloodbath, hurriedly explained by David’s need to “tie up the loose ends” before his cover is blown, meaning he kills enough people to get the attention of the police and the military.
The poor direction shows no style to match this film’s lack of substance, with awful music, clumsily handled scenes and all the predictability you’d expect from a film this shamelessly unoriginal. All of what I’ve said would be slightly forgiveable if this was any fun; if there were some cheap scares, some good action scenes or some form of excitement; but with characters that are flat and forgettable, and scarcely a pulse-raising moment across the whole thing there’s about as much to enjoy as being a guest at Belmarsh prison.