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SXSW Movie Review: Dan Stevens stars in retro chic action thriller 'The Guest'

Dan Stevens in The Guest
Dan Stevens in The Guest
Courtesy of SXSW

The Guest


Director Adam Wingard's retro chic action thriller "The Guest" feels like a movie out of the 1980s.

The story begins with a mysterious stranger named David (British actor Dan Stevens from "Downton Abbey"), who arrives on the doorstep of grieving mother (Sheila Kelley) claiming to be an Army buddy of her deceased son.

Stevens' guest soon wins over the family, which includes their wussy son Luke (Brendan Meyer), rebellious daughter Anna (Maika Monroe), and alcoholic husband Spencer (Leland Orser).

But after their new guest is welcomed into the family home, a series of accidental deaths seem to be connected to his presence, which leads Anna and Luke to begin their own investigation.

Anna's snooping also alerts a clandestine military operative (Lance Reddick), who brings his team to town seeking to terminate David.

With "The Guest," Wingard works from a colorful palette, splashing plenty of vibrant imagery and retro style onto the screen.

Wingard ("V/H/S") seems to draw his visual inspiration from a variety of popular 1980s directors, including the likes of Michael Mann ("Manhunter" and "Miami Vice") and John Carpenter ("Halloween" and "They Live").

Aura Sperling Pierce ("August: Osage County") also adds to the film's retro feel with terrific costume and wardrobe choices for the characters, including Monroe's daughter Anna, who thanks to makeup and hair stylists Karen Romero and Michael Scott Baker, stands out with her contemporary update of Madonna's "Material Girl" look from the 1980s.

Even the film's climactic action sequences have a campy throwback appeal to them, as if watching an old 1980s Arnold Schwarzenegger action flick like "Red Heat" or "Commando" but without the one-liners.

For genre movie fans the film is worth inviting onto your viewing list.

"The Guest" premiered at this year's Sundance Film Festival.

It screened at SXSW this past weekend in the Midnighters section.

An encore screening will take place on Thursday, March 13 at 11:59PM in the Stateside Theatre in Austin, Texas.

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