Whatever Adam Wingard is drinking, please keep ’em coming. The director’s most recent two features are uneven but brimming with nerve and invention: You’re Next (released here last year) upends the conventions of the home-invasion slasher movie and let viewers laugh through their gasps; and The Guest works increasingly daffy variations on the mysterious-stranger subgenre. In this case the stranger is an Afghanistan vet, David (Dan Stevens, a Downton Abbey refugee), who shows up at the front door of the Peterson home in Small Town, U.S.A. The Petersons have lost a son in battle, and David was with him at the end—indeed, David’s here looking in on the family because of a promise made at the hour of death. Or so he says. How many mysterious strangers can be trusted on such things?
We won’t give away the answer to that question, but Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett are clever at playing a certain kind of audience-engagement game.