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Guest, The

Review by: 
Head Cheeze
Release Date: 
2014
Studio: 
Universal
Genre: 
Action/Drama
Format: 
Blu-ray
Region: 
A
Aspect Ratio: 
2.40:1
Directed by: 
Adam Wingard
Cast: 
Dan Stevens
Maika Monroe
Brendan Meyer
Sheila Kelley
Leland Orser
Movie: 
5
Extras: 
3
Bottom Line: 
4

Movies like The Guest make me giddy. I’d heard it was good, but I purposely shielded myself from any reviews or spoilers out there, and, beyond what the trailer revealed, I hadn’t a clue what I was in for. Once the movie got rolling, however, I was absolutely floored by just how much the film defied my expectations.  For the next week or so, I was like one of those Breaking Bad or The Wire fans and couldn’t shut up about how great this flick was.

First thing’s first; stop reading this now.

Seriously. If you want to get your money’s worth from this one, it’s best to walk into it the same way I did, and that’s completely unprepared for the absolute batshit insanity Adam Wingard has cooked up for you.

Are you still there? Fine; let’s continue.

The Guest tells the story of the Petersons; a family reeling from the recent loss of their eldest son Caleb in the war in Afghanistan.  Mother, Laura (Sheila Kelley), is a shell of her former self, while her husband, Spencer (Leland Orser) has withdrawn into the bottle, leaving the rebellious sister Anna (Maika Monroe) and the bullied Luke (Brendan Meyer) to fend mostly for themselves while their parents try to pick up the pieces. This all changes when David (Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens) comes knocking at their door.

Claiming to be a friend of Caleb’s from the military, David informs Laura that he made a promise to Caleb that were he to make it back stateside, he’d check in on his family for him. Laura is reticent, at first, but the charming David eventually wins her over, and she invites him to stay for dinner to meet the rest of the family. Eventually, David wins over everyone save for Anna, who isn’t sure quite how to feel about him, especially when Spencer insists that David stay for a few days in Caleb’s old room.

While Spencer and Laura fill the void left by Caleb with David, David worms his way into the lives of Laura and Luke, with a special focus on the latter’s run-ins with the local bullies culminating in a spectacular barroom beat down of said bullies that serves to secure Luke’s loyalty. Laura, however, is a harder nut to crack, but, after David accompanies her to her friend’s Halloween party, flexes some muscle (literally), and puts her pushy boyfriend in his place, she, too, is lured in by the man’s charms.

Of course David’s dark side is soon revealed, breaking his spell over Laura as well as attracting some Platypus unwanted attention from some people from his mysterious past.

They say you can’t judge a book by its cover, and, occasionally (although not often) the same can be said about a film and its trailers. The Guest’s trailers make it look like some sort of uber serious psychological thriller/home-invasion flick when, in reality, the film is director Adam Wingard’s love letter to the 80s indestructible action hero, taking a few choice bits of  hilariously improbable and over-the-top elements from that genre and somehow wedging them into an otherwise logical contemporary thriller. The results are laugh-out-loud funny, gloriously gory, and so thoroughly unexpected that the group I watched the film with alternated between knee-slapping belly laughs to full-on looks of disbelief. It’s a brilliant and deliriously entertaining mash-up, and, after the ingenious and darkly comic You’re Next, a bold move by Wingard, who, I’m sure, many expected would follow-up his biggest hit with yet another horror offering.

The cast is uniformly excellent, with Stevens making for the perfect steely-eyed super soldier, and the incredibly sexy Monroe proving an effective-yet-unlikely foil for a man capable of singlehandedly wiping out an entire squad of mercenaries with the casual demeanor of someone folding socks. The flick is stocked with a nice selection of supporting players, including The Wire’s Lance Reddick as the special ops Major tasked with taking David down, as well as cameos by Joel David Moore and Ethan Embry, and Wingard-vet, A.J. Bowen.  I also have to point out the gorgeous cinematography by Robby Baumgartner. From the wide open New Mexico vistas to the color-drenched set pieces, this is a really beautifully shot film.

The Guest comes to Blu-ray via Universal Pictures in a very appealing 2.40:1 1080p transfer that is vibrant and exceptionally crisp. The film has a fine sheen of cinematic grain throughout that lends the transfer a welcome filmic warmth without obscuring finer details. Contrast is spot-on, with rich, luxurious blacks and pristine whites, while the rest of the film’s color palette is reproduced faithfully and with visual gusto. Teamed up with its powerful and well-mixed 5.1 DTS HD Master Audio soundtrack, The Guest packs a lot of firepower in both the audio and video departments.

While I was hoping for a bigger collection of supplemental materials, we do get a very entertaining and informative commentary track with Wingard and writer Simon Barrett that reveals a lot of what went into the production, its myriad influences, and a surprising frankness in regards regarding many issues that arose during the making of the film. We’re also given a collection of deleted scenes (HD), and an extremely short (less than 2 minutes by my count!) interview with Dan Stevens.

The Guest is a twisted and enormously entertaining mash-up of 80s action movie, family drama, and modern thriller. Picture Snake Plissken suddenly smashing through the living room window during the middle of Ordinary People, and you’re on the right track. Universal’s Blu-ray presentation is top notch stuff, with reference quality sights and sounds and a really impressive commentary track that more than makes up for the lack of the typical EPK stuff most of us skip anyway. This is a film that surprised the hell out of me, and I had a blast every step of the way. Highest recommendations! 

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