In spite of my criticisms of The Guest, there are some things to admire from the performances by its two leads (Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe) and some very dark humor with one scene standing out (at the restaurant for those who have seen it), but for all I liked, this was just a shift in tone which really took this from being ridiculously awesome to ridiculously stupid.
Genre(s): Suspense, Thriller, Horror
Universal | R – 100 min. – $34.98 | January 6, 2015
THE MOVIE – 2.5/5
Adam Wingard’s films, for whatever reason, garner plenty of Internet hype starting with 2011’s You’re Next, a horror film that starts off well enough before meandering until a sloppy finish. His latest is The Guest, a film that starts off well enough before… well, you know the rest.
In actuality, the first 20-25 minutes of The Guest aren’t half bad and live up to what I thought would be a psychological suspense flick before going way off course by way of the Bourne series… if Jason Bourne were a through and through bad guy and then finishing off as a horror film and an all-out clichéd final scene.
David (DAN STEVENS) is recently home after serving overseas and has come to the home of Spencer (LELAND ORSER) and Laura Peterson (SHEILA KELLEY) whose son, Caleb, was recently killed and David served in his unit, and at their home to keep a promise that David made to him. While Laura is welcoming David into their home, so far as to invite him to stay in Caleb’s old room, Spencer isn’t as warm though this has more to do with his job. Also in the household is their son Luke (BRENDAN MEYER) who is being bullied at school and daughter Anna (MAIKA MONROE) who is dating a pot dealer and works at a local restaurant.
As David ingratiates himself to the Petersons, even helping out in their personal lives such as kicking the asses of Luke’s high school bullies or making a good impression on Anna’s friends and for Anna, provides emotional support where her boyfriend does not, something is still off and Anna’s suspicions arise when she overhears David on his cell phone about laying low. She puts in a call with the military asking about David which, when they search, triggers an alert…
Meanwhile, David is causing more havoc, meeting one of Anna’s friends (JOEL DAVID MOORE) who hooks him up with a gun dealer (ETHAN HAWKE) and ceremonially offs both of them, the former at an incredible distance even Bourne would be impressed with. Furthermore, he plants the offending weapon in Anna’s boyfriend’s car and places an anonymous tip with the po-po who also searches his home to find drugs.
Cut to some government agency and a black ops man named Major Carver (LANCE REDDICK) where we learn David was a part of some super soldier experiments and went berserk, setting a fire at a facility and made his escape; later he also reveals David has been hardwired to cut off loose ends… at any cost. So I guess one could think of David as an evil version of Jason Bourne…
And here we go into the spy thriller genre and a little bit of Nancy Drew as Anna snoops around.
One of the problems I had with The Guest, as was the issue against You’re Next, is it never quite lives up to the potential of the first 20 minutes because just when the film settles in as a psychological suspense-thriller, it makes an inane 180 and adds in a spy element and before that gets established, we finish with a horror final scene. Now, I realize this is supposed to be some homage to the 1980s (or neo-80s) but the transitions here don’t work that great and as we go from one scene to the next, all I could think was how ridiculous (not in a good way) and off-course this movie was.
That said, there are some things to be admired. The soundtrack, which has a retro-80s vibe, is so utterly fantastic that I went and bought it off of iTunes immediately afterwards and have enjoyed most of the songs (side note: favorite is “Antonio”). As inane as the plot got, I do have to admire the insanity of the violence including one key scene at Anna’s work; it’s one hell of a scene that is callous yet darkly commendable in its boldness.
Also, the performances are, almost all around, pretty darn good. Dan Stevens, coming off of some success on “Downton Abbey,” leaving after three seasons, is stunning in his transformation from the friendly southerner to a bad ass killing machine. Not to be outdone, Maika Monroe makes her mark in a nice follow-up to her breakout role in Labor Day, she, along with Stevens, help makes the time pass and overlook the shortcomings of the plot.
Helmed, and edited, by Adam Wingard from a script by Simon Barrett (You’re Next, V/H/S 1 and 2), The Guest never lives up to the premise’s potential leaving some good but a lot of dumb ideas that, even if one were to buy into the “Neo 80s” style, never quite works in spite of the best efforts of the cast and even the darker humor.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 2.5/5
This release comes with a matted, title embossed, slip cover. Inside we get a standard DVD Copy and the redemption code for the Digital Copy good on either iTunes or UltraViolet.
Audio Commentary – Editor/Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett sit down for a low key, laid back but informative commentary talking about various issues from filming locations, casting, editing and other tidbits. I might not have been enthralled with this movie, but Wingard is an entertaining speaker.
Deleted Scenes (15:00; HD) include 7 deleted, extended and alternate scenes most of which were fine, though thankfully not included in the final cut. An optional commentary track accompanies these to learn why exactly they were removed.
Q&A with Dan Stevens (2:32; HD) is some junket footage with the actor chatting about his character.
VIDEO – 4.5/5
The Guest arrives onto Blu-ray presented with a 1080p high-definition and in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio. The picture unsurprisingly looks pretty fantastic with clean and sharp detail levels, bright and crisp colors while darker scenes are nice and stark. There are no signs of artifacts, pixilation or aliasing.
AUDIO – 4.5/5
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track offered up provides clear dialogue levels throughout but it kicks into second gear when the insane action begins from gunfire and even a grenade explosion, while the (amazing) soundtrack and score provide some nice depth to this lossless track.
OVERALL – 3.0/5
Overall, in spite of my criticisms of The Guest, there are some things to admire from the performances by its two leads (Dan Stevens, Maika Monroe), a fantastic soundtrack and some very dark humor with one scene standing out (at the restaurant for those who have seen it), but for all I liked, this was just a shift in tone which really took this from being ridiculously awesome to ridiculously stupid. Still, unlike other movies I didn’t care for, at the end I never had regrets and would at least give this a rental recommendation.
Brian Oliver, The Movieman
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.