Action Blu-ray Review

Blu-ray Review: The Guest

January 27, 2015Ben Mk


Halloween has been Terminated...

Arriving on the heels of their darkly funny and twisted slasher flick You're Next, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett's latest project, The Guest, is a balls-to-the-wall action-thriller in the vein of eighties genre fare. But in contrast to the most recent wave of big screen shoot-em-up throwbacks, this sly homage doesn't just rely on bombastic action set-pieces and moviegoers' nostalgia. No, The Guest is something else entirely — a bloody, subversive and self-aware romp in which the man of the hour, Dan Stevens, blows audiences away in the title role.

   

The Film Stevens stars as David Collins, an Afghanistan war veteran whose first stop after getting out of the US military is the sleepy town of Moriarty, New Mexico. There, he pays a visit to the Peterson family, claiming to be a friend of their recently-killed-in-action son, Caleb, and is welcomed by grieving mother Laura (Sheila Kelley). A photo on their mantle showing David with her son's platoon proves he's the real deal, so she invites him to stay, despite the objections of her husband, Spencer (Leland Orser).

With his genial demeanor and quiet, Southern charm, David has no trouble ingratiating himself into the family, even making himself useful by helping their youngest, Luke (Brendan Meyer), give a group of school bullies their long overdue comeuppance. But when bodies start mysteriously piling up around town, daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) begins to suspect things may not be as they appear. Digging into David's past, she ends up unwittingly triggering something sinister in their well-mannered visitor. And before you can say "Hell in a hand basket", the town is descended upon by military men — the kind who look like they've just stepped off the set of a Michael Bay film — and David has gone from helpful houseguest to homicidal maniac.

This is also the point where Lance Reddick (Fringe, The Wire) shows up to chew the scenery as Major Carver, a G-Man tasked with bringing David into custody and rescuing the Petersons from his warpath. And it's where the film undergoes an abrupt transformation, morphing from a suspenseful, slow-burn thriller into an off-the-rails genre joyride.

Its final act unfurls like a mash-up of action favorites and cult classics, with Wingard and Barrett both winking at and paying homage to movies like The Terminator, Halloween, Universal Soldier and even The Bourne Identity. The insanity of the finale alone — set in a high school haunted-house-themed maze, replete with deranged laughter and a hallway of mirrors (à la Enter the Dragon) — is worth the price of admission.

But it's Stevens, channeling the likes of Paul Walker and Jim Caviezel, that's the film's biggest surprise. Although Monroe impresses with her feisty turn, coming across as both Sarah Connor and Kyle Reese rolled into one, the former Downton Abbey star is a revelation in the title role, ditching his prim-and-proper television persona to exude laid-back charisma one moment and stone-cold, maniacal intensity the next (all while sporting a dead-on American accent). Without a shadow of a doubt, the film is at its best when David is behaving his worst.

Audio/Visual Fidelity The Guest comes a-knockin' on Blu-ray with a slick and stylish A/V presentation sure to impress even the most ardent audio and videophile. Right from the get-go, the hi-def transfer delivers the goods, wowing viewers with deep blacks and strong contrast. And with hues of neon orange, green, purple and blue (not to mention crimson red) drenching the screen, color saturation levels don't disappoint in the least. Otherwise, picture quality is crisp and unblemished: a healthy amount of fine detail is present on-screen at all times, light film grain abounds, and there's not a single image flaw in sight. On the audio front, the disc's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack immerses viewers in the film's soundstage, from the dialogue, to composer Steve Moore's pulsing, John Carpenter-esque synth score, to the eruptions of automatic gunfire and explosions. Every aural detail shines through with crystal clarity, backed by potent LFE to bolster the chaotic action set-pieces.

Special Features D Films' Blu-ray release is pound-for-pound identical to Universal's release, featuring over 17 minutes of HD extras, plus an audio commentary. This includes 15 minutes of Deleted Scenes ("Deleted Original Opening", "Extended Intro to the Peterson Family", "Anna Finds David's Gun", "Anna Meets David with Final Cut for Comparison", "David Confronts Anna", "Clown Gag" and "Zeke's Bedroom"), all with optional commentary from Wingard and Barrett, as well as a 3-minute Q&A with Dan Stevens, in which the actor discusses such things as the script, his role, the fight sequences and the soundtrack. The Feature Commentary with Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett is also worth a listen, as it has the pair speaking candidly about everything from the film's production design and cinematography to its dialogue and visual effects.


The Bottom Line In The Guest, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett have crafted a film that's more than just an adept action-thriller. Not only is the movie light on its feet and unafraid to poke fun at itself; it fuses together action, horror and comedy in a madcap homage to Reagan-era schlock cinema, and the results are as funny, twisted and inspired as anything in the duo's previous filmography. Fans of the film won't be disappointed by D Films' Blu-ray release, which boasts top-tier audio and video, plus a smattering of worthwhile extras. So if movies like V/H/S and You're Next are up your alley, don't hesitate to invite The Guest over to your home. Unlike the Petersons, you'll be glad you did.  Ben Mk

Disc Breakdown
The Film  —  
Audio/Visual Fidelity  —  
Special Features  —  





* Reviewer's note: Portions of this Blu-ray review were adapted from my original review of the theatrical release, published on October 17th, 2014.



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