The Guest, 2014.
Directed by Adam Wingard.
Starring Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe, Joel David Moore, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick, and Brendan Meyer.
A soldier infiltrates the lives of a grieving family, claiming that he was friends with their son who died in action. Cue lots of suspicious activity and some accidental deaths.
There was a moment when Second Sight Films announced they were going to release Adam Wingard’s 2014 action thriller The Guest in a limited edition 4K UHD box set where, if you listened hard enough, there was an audible gasp that emanated from the physical media collecting community. That is because those in the know had already pictured in their minds how gorgeous this movie was going to look in ultra high definition, with the neon pinks, purples and bright reds of the already superb Blu-ray popping out the screen even more than they already did thanks to the announced new colour grading supervised by Adam Wingard.
But as more details came out things got even juicer, as Second Sight have also seen fit to include several other goodies for your delectation, including a rigid slipcase featuring new artwork, art cards, a 160-page book featuring essays from several notable contributors, a soundtrack CD, the standard Blu-ray as well as the 4K UHD disc and a host of extras included on the disc itself, most of them interviews with cast and crew plus a brand new audio commentary from director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, as well as an archive commentary from the previous Blu-ray release, deleted scenes and a gag reel. It’s a well-stocked package and limited to 5000 in number but it does come at quite a high price, so is it worth the upgrade if you already own it?
Well, the monetary cost is up to you but what is the point in having a 4K setup if you’re not going to show it off properly? And if ever there was a movie to show off all of those rich colours and deep blacks, and blast it all out with a huge ‘80s-influenced synth score, then The Guest is the one to do it with. Dan Stevens (yes, the same Dan Stevens from Downton Abbey) plays David, a soldier who visits the home of his former colleague Caleb Peterson, who was killed in action, to make good on his promise to his friend to keep an eye on his family.
Ingratiating himself into the bosom of the Peterson family by playing on their grief, David manages to sort out the family’s problems for them, like teenage son Luke’s daily battles with the school bullies, dad Spencer’s promotion thanks to a colleague dying and daughter Anna’s drug-dealing boyfriend troubles. Yes, all seems good now the seemingly perfect David is here to take control, but Anna gets a little suspicious of his too-good-to-be-true nature and makes a phone call to the army to check that he is who he says he is, and that is when things start to unravel and David’s true persona comes racing to the surface, meaning lots of carnage for anyone who gets in his way.
Despite its glossy looks and slick production values, The Guest is basically a horror movie in all but name, as David shares many characteristics with the likes of Halloween’s Michael Myers or the T-800 from The Terminator, and when it comes to structure and pace it is essentially a slasher movie. It is obvious from the start that David is not who he says he is but Adam Wingard doesn’t dump all the exposition on you in one go, the movie revealing little details as it goes so that when the Petersons’ start to question David’s motives we already have the notion that all is not well and are looking to see how David is going to smooth things over rather than be surprised by the latest ‘revelation’.
And all credit must go to Dan Stevens for his portrayal of the charming yet focused (and apparently indestructible) David. It could be said that The Guest is Dan Stevens’ audition for playing James Bond – he’d be the right age, he can do brooding, he can be charming, he has the physique, he can deliver a quip, he’s handsome and can strip and re-assemble a pistol in seconds – and with Daniel Craig now bowing out of the role it might be a good time for the Broccoli’s to revisit this movie and make some notes because Stevens’ performance is pretty much faultless as David veers from personable best friend to deadly adversary with a bit of ladies’ man in between. One listen to Dan Stevens’ interview in the special features lets you know that he got the dark humour in the movie straight away and pitched his performance perfectly, as indicated whenever David rolls his eyes when people don’t quite do what he wants them to do.
As far as modern thrillers paying homage to the golden era of the 1980s go The Guest is virtually flawless. There could be some message about the effects of grief and PTSD on soldiers and their families, but the filmmakers don’t dwell on that for too long – if at all – and instead dazzle you with sparkling visuals, committed performances and gratuitous violence all dished out in a controlled and stylised way that pays homage to the filmmakers’ influences without purposely re-treading old ground. Of course, it all looks beautiful in stunning 4K and totally worth upgrading if you already own a previous release, and if you don’t already own it then it is definitely a film you need to own because it is so much fun to watch again and again, but does the content of the set justify the cost? Only you can decide that but if you’re planning on watching The Guest in the future then this is the only way to see it.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★