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The Guest | Blu-ray Review

Adam Wingard The Guest Blu-ray ReviewEnjoying a healthy festival run after its premiere at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival, and a tour that brought it to SXSW and Toronto, Adam Wingard’s The Guest arrives on Blu-ray shortly after scoring a nod for Best Editing at the Independent Spirit Awards (though it’s unfortunate there wasn’t any room for some other awards love, such as for cinematography for Dan Stevens). Making their return to distribution, the Picturehouse folks grossed north of a quarter of a million at the box office, and the film  had releases in multiple regions across the globe.

After contributing to several anthology films, including the V/H/S films and The ABCs of Death, director Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett return to their first feature since 2011’s You’re Next, (a film that finally hit theaters to warm reception in 2013) with The Guest. Adept talents for entertaining, tongue-in-cheek scenarios, Wingard and Barrett exert equal levels of over-the-top bits with their latest endeavor, but with a sharper mix of subversive commentary and tightly plotted thrills that feels like an homage to the off-the-cuff glory days of John Carpenter. A penchant for comedic asides may cause fans of their previous works to favor something like You’re Next, but Wingard and Barrett deliver a fun, stylish, highly enjoyable throwback with their latest, the kind of film genre fans endlessly seek but so rarely find in today’s glut of mind-numbingly staged grandstanding.

Living out their rather stale existence in New Mexico, the Peterson family hasn’t managed to get over the loss of an eldest child that died in action in Iraq. Dad (Leland Orser) has taken to the bottle while Mom (Sheila Kelly) breaks into tears when left on her own. But out of the blue, a man named David (Dan Stevens) shows up on the Peterson doorstep one morning, claiming to be the best friend of their deceased son. Since he has just been discharged, David claims to be keeping a promise by arriving to inform them of their son’s dying message to his family. Instantly, he is taken in to their house as a guest, and David soon finds himself helping each family member with their particular personal problems, including some righteous retribution in the name of their younger son, who is bullied out school. But daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) isn’t quite convinced that Davis is who he says he is, despite the fact that she finds herself rather attracted to him. As she begins to question his flimsy story, we start to learn about a very insidious side of David, lurking under that all-American smile.

Before it gets too Teorema on us, a mid-film reveal about military experiments will either tickle your fancy or slide you off into distraction, though it’s presented with such poker faced seriousness that Lance Reddik’s over-the-top performance feels every bit at home here as similar twists in blockbuster fanfare like something from the ongoing Bourne films (as well as a distant echo of The Manchurian Candidate). It also serves as an underlying subversive streak, a unique and nagging abstraction about current war time politics, sandwiched into genre in the glorious tradition of horror films from days past.

Disc Review:

Universal’s high quality Blu-ray packaging does Wingard’s film justice, presented in 2.40:1 high definiteion widescreen with impeccable audio. Crisp, clear, and lethally vibrant, The Guest pops on Blu-ray. A couple extra features and commentary from Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett are also worth a look.

Deleted Scenes:
Fifteen minutes worth of deleted scenes are included, standouts being a spectacular looking alternate opening sequence, and a lengthier intro to the Petersen clan. A creepy clown gag also didn’t make the cut, unfortunately.

Q+A with Dan Stevens:
A very brief, two and a half minute snippet of Stevens talking about his involvement with the project is interesting and could have been longer. Stevens relates his initial enthusiastic response to the script, as well as his favored description of the film as being like “Captain America gone very, very wrong.”

Final Thoughts:

One can’t overlook the surprisingly enjoyable performance from a newly chiseled Dan Stevens, whose rather dowdy presence in Downton Abbey and Summer in February will have many barely recognizing the blond haired, blue eyed monster that dominates nearly every scene of The Guest. A handful of hysterically funny scenes punctuated with a few highly entertaining and very violent action sequences shows an unprecedented side of the performer. Also quite effective is Maika Monroe, a throwback to the days when the corner on female adolescent angst was dominated by the likes of Christina Ricci and Rose McGowan. And then there’s the stupendous score by Stephen Moore (who is one half of the space rock duo known as Zombi), and a handful of atmospheric tracks from the likes of The Sisters of Mercy, Stevie B., and Survive which make for delectable accompaniment to Robby Baumgartner’s 80’s inspired look. The Guest is sleek, fun entertainment, a reminder of a bygone era when an influx of entertaining genre films existed in greater quantity.

Film Review: ★★★★/☆☆☆☆☆
Disc Review: ★★★★/☆☆☆☆☆

Los Angeles based Nicholas Bell is IONCINEMA.com's Chief Film Critic and covers film festivals such as Sundance, Berlin, Cannes and TIFF. He is part of the critic groups on Rotten Tomatoes, The Los Angeles Film Critics Association (LAFCA), FIPRESCI, the Online Film Critics Society (OFCS) and GALECA. His top 3 for 2023: The Beast (Bonello) Poor Things (Lanthimos), Master Gardener (Schrader). He was a jury member at the 2019 Cleveland International Film Festival.

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