A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Guest is a thriller about a mysterious and potentially violent guest; a teen brother and sister are the main protagonists. Violence is strong but not particularly realistic -- a highly trained specialist beats up, shoots, stabs, and otherwise kills several characters. Blood sprays, and bloody wounds are shown. There's one sex scene, with a topless female shown, as well as characters in seductive states of partial undress. Language includes many uses of "f--k," "p---y," "f----t," and other terms. Teens regularly smoke pot (and drink beer in one scene), one character is a drug dealer, and the father appears to have a drinking problem. Teen horror fans will know the director, Adam Wingard, and others may be drawn in by star Dan Stevens, of Downton Abbey fame. While it's a thrill ride that's not meant to be taken seriously, it's still too edgy for all but the oldest teens.
What's the story?
The Peterson family mourns the death of their eldest son Caleb, a soldier who died overseas. A stranger who arrives at the door calling himself David (Dan Stevens) claims to have known Caleb and says he wants to deliver a final message of love. Mom (Sheila Kelley) invites David to stay, and he subtly starts to affect their lives. David helps young teen Luke (Brendan Meyer) deal with school bullies in a most alarming way, and Dad (Leland Orser) suddenly gets a promotion at work. Then Luke's older sister, Anna (Maika Monroe), takes David to a party ... and subsequently one of her friends is dead. She makes a few calls to find out who David really is, setting off a chain reaction of increasingly deadly events.
Is it any good?
It's a good-looking production, as opposed to director Adam Wingard's previous films' jerky, ugly feel. With his earlier films, including V/H/S, V/H/S/2, and You're Next, it appeared that Wingard wasn't much more than a horror fan happily paying tribute to the films he liked, without any real interest becoming his own filmmaker. But with THE GUEST, he's finally stepped up and created something that feels skillful and resonant.
For the first time in Wingard's work, death means something. Departed soldier Caleb affects everyone else. The characters are all wounded, and Wingard seems to sympathize with them; it makes sense that they would turn to David for relief. In the part, Stevens (from Downton Abbey) is clearly not sane, but he's also mesmerizing. Building on this, Wingard creates a story out of fascinating, prickly human interactions. The movie has its share of crazy thrills, but it's the characters that really make it work.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about The Guest's violence. How did it affect you? Was it thrilling? Realistic? Disturbing? How did the movie achieve this effect? How does it compare to what you've seen in other movies?
Why is David so fascinating? Did you trust him or like him? Are the other characters sympathetic? How?
How do you feel about the father's drinking? Does he seem to enjoy it? If not, what purpose does it serve? Are there realistic consequences?
- In theaters: September 17, 2014
- On DVD or streaming: January 6, 2015
- Cast: Dan Stevens, Brendan Meyer, Maika Monroe
- Director: Adam Wingard
- Studio: Picturehouse
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 99 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, language, some drug use and a scene of sexuality
- Last updated: March 13, 2020
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