Movingg in for the kill
This super-sleeper of a thriller chiller will leave many bigger-budgeted films stumbling in its wake, writes Tara Brady
frock coat in sight. Not that he has anything against frock coats.
“It has been nice to take the stiff collar off for a bit,” admits the 31-year-old. “I would love to go and do a period drama again if the right sort of thing came up. But at the moment how I operate is very script based. I say yes if I am interested in working with the director or if the script makes me laugh or if it’s something I want to explore. I wouldn’t throw something off my desk in a huff just because it’s set in 1874. But I am looking for something with a twist.”
It has been a busy a couple of years for the actor. In 2012 he was on the judging panel for the Booker Prize, an “amazing honour” he says, but one that required reading more than 100 books in a very short space of time.
“I’ve since had to rehabilitate myself as a reader,” he says. “In two years I have definitely not read as many as I did during those months. Not even close. And it’s been nice to take my time with a novel and not race through wondering ‘is this a great work of literary fiction?’ and ‘What am I going to say about this at the next judges’ meeting?’”
Stevens has lately relocated to Brooklyn with Hariet and their two children, Willow (born 2009) and Aubrey (who arrived in 2012).
He looks leaner and sleeker than he did during his Downton years. New York has, he says, changed his eating habits, but otherwise hasn’t necessitated too much of a cultural shift.
“I’ve always loved Brooklyn,” says Stevens. “And I’ve always wanted to live there because various poets I love lived there and I love that feeling of walking on the same streets. But New York and London are both great cities and are really quite similar. If anything, moving away has given me a new appreciation of London.”
He has just finished shooting Night at the Museum 3 and The Cobbler opposite Adam Sandler. For now, however, he’s taking a “beat” so that he can spend some time at home.
“Having children is wonderful for an actor, I think,” he says “Partly because they remind you about so many great things in life that have nothing to do with work and also because an actor is interested in people and character and personality. So watching two little humans grow up is so very exciting.”
THE GUEST ★★★★ Directed by Adam Wingard. Starring Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick, Sheila Kelley 15A cert, 99 min
Blue-eyed soldier boy David (Dan Stevens) arrives in a small New Mexican town to visit the family of a fallen comrade. The grieving mom (Sheila Kelley) notices that the young Iraq War veteran has appeared, as if from nowhere, but David’s “yes ma’am” manners soon put her at ease. The family are not in great emotional shape: dad has hit the bottle, teenager Luke is sullen and withdrawn, and his older goth sister Anna (Maika Monroe) stays in her room making mix-tapes.
Might their new guest allow the healing to begin? Perhaps. David soon makes himself useful by tackling Luke’s schoolyard tormentors, hanging out the household washing and carrying kegs around a party Anna attends. But Anna continues to suspect that David is not all that he seems to be. She has no idea. Adam Wingard is the mumblegore horror hotshot behind the better bits of the V/H/S portmanteau horror and the 2011 cult favourite You’re Next. The latter’s hefty profit margin has allowed the hyphenate director, editor, cinematographer and writer to move up divisions with a budget of more than $1 million.
Being accustomed to producing his earlier, murkier movies for $20,000 or so, Mr Wingard knows well how to get more bang for your buck. Armed with something approaching a real budget, he now puts on one hell of a show. The Guest, a thriller that becomes a horror that transitions into a hilarious truncation of every 1980s action picture and back again, is as extravagant and ambitious a film as you’ll see all year. Picture Commando as a psychological thriller. Imagine Halloween as a theme park ride. Think Drive as a comedy.
A cleverly picked constellation of TV favourites – Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens, LA Law’s Sheila Kelley, Fringe’s Lance Reddick – add some star wattage to an outrageous and outrageously entertaining hybrid.
Stevens keeps a poker-straight face as he delivers some of the year’s funniest lines. Maika Monroe’s screen magnetism is enough to keep Scar-Jo and J-Law awake during the long winter nights.
If Luc Beeson’s Lucy has left you jonesing for something that stands apart from the superheroes and straight-world toughs that populate the movieverse, then The Guest is a most welcome imposition.
Dan Stevens in The Guest, right, and below, with buddy Benedict Cumerbatch at the
film’s gala screening in London on Monday night. Below right: with Michelle Dockery in Downton Abbey
Resistant to his charms: Maika Monroe as the defiant Anna in The Guest