The Guest

“Dan Stevens is Stalking Me”

Dan Stevens delivers an enigmatic performance as a charming soldier who introduces himself to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their son who died “in action”. While the mysterious guest is kind and helpful, not everyone in the family is convinced that he is who he says he is.

The Guest. Dir. Adam Wingard. Perf. Dan Stevens. Picturehouse, 2014

I feel like Dan Stevens is stalking me. Not in a You kind-of-way, but in a legit low-key Tyler Durden kind-of-way. It’s like everywhere I turn, there he is, staring through me with his steely-blue gaze. Have you ever had that friend who tries to get you to fall in love with a certain actor that they love? The type of friend who uses almost any opportunity to make a connection between their life and something their favorite character on TV just went through. If I did that I’d totally use Hale Appleman (from The Magicians) as my avatar — but I don’t do that, I’m too high. A friend of mine used to do it all the time with Dan Stevens. There wasn’t a conversation we’d have where Stevens didn’t at least have a walk-on role. My friend was definitely a stan for that Dan; and the more he did it, the more it started to seem as if Stevens was stalking me through my friend. The freaky part is when he bypassed my friend and just started stalking me directly.

The first time I became aware of Stevens was when one of my good friends tried to get me to watch the FX series Legion. He was so desperate for me to get into it, my Gmail automatically banned him from sending me messages at one point. I still have a screenshot somewhere of the amount of links and pictures he’d send in a day, during one of his manic phases! He even cornered me in his apartment one time and forced me to watch the trailer for the show. It looked amazing, but I just never got around to watching an episode. Then, trying to appeal to my secret love of Maggie Smith in Sister Act II (“Go with God, Crispy”), the same friend tried to get me to binge-watch Downton Abbey (where Stevens plays Matthew Crawley). Again, I never got the chance to get into it; and for some reason, my friend suddenly stopped sending me FOMO-inducing Downton memes after he was done watching season 3. I just thought it wasn’t meant to be between Dan and me. I’d say, that’s when he started stalking me personally — through the TV.

Recently, I’ve been catching up on a lot of movies from the past decade or so. I never read a film’s synopsis — they give too much away. I am influenced by casting, but only what I can see on the poster. I don’t know, maybe it’s an ASD thing, but I prefer to go by the film poster. One cosy afternoon, I thought I’d settle in for a nice little dramatic thriller about Julian Assange of WikiLeaks fame/infamy. I’ve always been a bit of a Cumberbitch, so I was excited to see it; but guess who else makes a surprise appearance? Dan Stevens as Ian Katz. Okay, it’s nothing. A day later, I decide to dip my toes into some sci-fi. With all the paranoia going on around me in the real world, I thought I’d escape into an alternate reality for 90 minutes. I start watching a film with a very enigmatic poster: Killswitch. There he was again, giving me vibes I haven’t felt since I was in John Malkovich’s head. Okay, co-incidence. A few days later, I’m deep into a “flight” (some real good moon rock) and watching something completely random: Night at the Mueseum 3. Yes, you guessed it — Dan Stevens! I started to notice something weird. As I sat there, couch-locked and mouth-agape, entranced by his general energy and unexpected comedic abilities as a knight in shining armor, I noticed this strange physical reaction in my body. It wasn’t anything too obvious at first, just a slight tightness in my chest.

That feeling reminded me of a similar sensation I get when I’m doing Meisner’s Repetition Exercise with certain people. For me, the exercise is like a power play between my partner and me. Most of the time, I’m in control and I feel fine, but other times I feel intimidated by my partner. That’s how I felt whenever Stevens was on the screen — intimidated. Okay, odd. So, about a week goes by and I’m on another “magic cloud” scrolling through DSTV Catch Up, when I see this alluring silhouette of a man on this film’s poster. The specimen was standing next to this epic title, which read The Guest. Seduced by the red 80’s title font, I selected “watch now”. Yes, yet again, it was Dan Stevens; and this time he meant business. Writer/director Adam Wingard’s stylishly captivating Action/Thriller The Guest, was finally the catalyst for me figuring out my stalking situation with Stevens. It was his look. Dan Stevens has that “Christian Bale” look. It’s something about the look of the eyes. I talk about it in episode 30 of The Late Flight Show. The look makes it hard for me to lie to someone who has it, because it makes me feel like they’re using my own tricks on me. When I can physically feel that my co-actor, can physically feel if I’m lying to them or telling them the truth, it freaks me out. Dan Stevens, freaks me out.

In the The Guest, Stevens plays David Collins, a man who shows up on the Peterson family’s doorstep with a duffel-bag and a promise. He claims to have been a friend of the Peterson’s deceased son, Caleb. Laura, the matriarch of the family, is so consumed with grief that she makes the spontaneous decision of offering David a place to stay while he’s in town. With her husband Spencer struggling at work and her youngest son Luke being bullied at school, David seems like he could be a temporary reprieve from her sadness. Anna, her daughter, is the only one in the family who hasn’t let grief diminish her powers of intuition. Poetically, she’s also the most powerless character in the film, demonstrated in her having to bend to her parent’s will most of the time; and later, in her reliance on Lance Reddick’s Carver. Stevens is extremely charming in his role as a maniacal military man; and it scared me how much I could sympathize with his David. It was the perfect role for him to help me realize why he’d always made me feel uncomfortable. His performance in The Guest uses the “Christian Bale” look to maximum effect. I could suddenly recognize myself through him, and could empathize with how he must have been through some really dark times in his real life — beyond the character.

Obviously, I’m not suggesting that Stevens was ever a Manchurian Candidate, only that there must have been some real life adversity he would have been exposed to in order to exude the vibes he does. There are only a handful of actors who can successfully pull off roles like this without coming off as corny. He’s one of them for a reason. I think this idea is referenced in the film as well, through Luke, the youngest child in the Peterson family. He and David share a special bond together. David isn’t afraid to reveal himself to Luke somewhat, whereas with the other characters he keeps up more of a facade. They both can’t lie to each other. It’s what I imagine doing the Repetition Exercise with Stevens in real life would be like — except there wouldn’t be an awesome synth-wave soundtrack on top of it to make it less freaky for me. Dan Stevens in The Guest is not like anything I’ve seen him play before or since (in the three weeks I’ve gotten to know him). Wingard orchestrated an indie/comic-book origin story/80s-action/slasher cult classic type of film and I loved it. If Dan Stevens had never started stalking me, I might have never identified the fact that I scare myself. I think I’m gonna start watching season 1 of Legion this weekend. Cut to me stalking Dan Stevens now.

See You Next Wednesday,

Charlie

#danstevens #meisner #adamwingard

 

review

TL;DR


9/10

I’ve seen this film twice now, and I would definitely watch it again. I watched it once by myself, and again with a friend whose in love with Dan Stevens. It felt like an origin story for a comic book anti-hero. While the lead character in The Guest does horrible things, you still feel empathetic towards him, because of the mysterious circumstances surrounding his advanced militaristic abilities.

$

BB – Big Budget – $20mil+
SB- Small Budget – $5mil+
LB – Low Budget – $1 mil+
MB – Micro Budget – $250K+
NB – No Budget – <$50K

*

Dan Stevens, Ethan Embry, Lance Reddick, Maika Monroe, Brendan Meyer, Leland Orser, Sheila Kelley, Joel David Moore

?

Dan Stevens’ interpretation of his mysterious character, David Collins, was perfectly executed. His charming, crooked smirk wins you over and you end up forgiving David for some of the horrible things he does. Stevens also effectively uses his gait to subtly communicate his character’s robotic assertion of power and dominance over other characters. His acting is what makes this film worthy of multiple viewings — if only to try and track the different points of the unraveling of his character’s derangement.


Charlie can be seen taking flights and acting like a thespian on Scribblebytes’ The Late Flight Show on YouTube. Click here to subscribe.


Episode referenced in blog: The Christian Bale Look

Published by Scribblebytes

Scribblebytes features light-hearted conceptual videos by South African creative, Charlie Manner. The site serves as a metamodernist exploration and documentation of the transmedia narrative development process from scratch to hatch. Using the art of Acting as a vehicle, Charlie Manner guides you through the thought-processes that are involved in taking an idea from concept, to concrete execution. This site can be used as a study resource or for entertainment. Scribblebytes is a space where brainstorming is actualized, to lay the foundation for the creation of commercial-grade content that engages the audience in an emotionally and culturally relevant way.

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