Blu-ray Review: The Guest (2014)

By , Contributor
Following up their acclaimed 2013 horror film You’re Next, director Adam Wingard and screenwriter Simon Barrett are back with The Guest (available on Blu-ray and DVD January 6). Kind of a throwback to ‘80s-era thrillers, the film is formulaic but fun. Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey, Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb) stars as war vet David Collins. He ingratiates himself on the Peterson family after dropping in on them unexpectedly. David and their son Caleb, who was killed in action, were close. David vowed to watch out for them in Caleb’s absence. Mom Laura (Sheila Kelley) is immediately taken by David’s gentlemanly ways. Dad Spencer (Leland Orser) needs a little more convincing, but eventually comes around. Their teen son Luke (Brendan Meyer) bonds quickly with David, who acts as his protector from schoolyard bullies.

Guest Maika Monroe 2 (380x254).jpgBut sharp-eyed daughter Anna (Maika Monroe), reluctantly living at home under her parents rules on the eve of her 21st birthday, begins to grow suspicious of David. This polite, forthright young man is just a little too good to be true. After some digging, Anna uncovers a few uncomfortable secrets that David is carrying. While there probably should’ve been a little more psychology behind this psychological thriller, the plot mechanics operate smoothly as we see the Peterson’s unwittingly fall deeper and deeper under David’s spell as he tries to “protect” them by instigating acts of vicious aggression toward their adversaries (no matter how benign).

Guest Dan Stevens (380x254).jpgStevens seems to be channeling the persona of Owen Wilson, albeit the more sinister Owen Wilson of The Minus Man. His soft drawl, steely gaze, and omniscient smirk combine to make David a seductive wack job. Everyone else is sort of just serviceable in a B-movie way. Things start to get a bit silly when Major Richard Carver (Lance Reddick) steps in, a man who knows the dangerous truth about David. Horror movie elements blend with the action as the film hits a tightly controlled third act that keeps the tension level high without going too far over the top.

Guest Maika Monroe (188x280).jpgUniversal offers a pleasing high definition presentation of The Guest, with a sharp transfer of Robby Baumgartner’s workmanlike cinematography. The DTS-HD MA 5.1 surround mix offers some jolts here and there and an easily satisfactory low end punch that kicks in at key moments.

Special features include a commentary track by director Wingard and writer Barrett. Dan Stevens appears in a promotional Q&A piece. There are 15 minutes of deleted scenes (with optional commentary) that offer a few uninteresting bits that were wisely cut, keeping the film’s running time at a relatively brisk 101 minutes. The Blu-ray package also includes a standard DVD and UltraViolet digital copy.

For what is essentially a direct-to-video release (it played a handful of screens last October), The Guest is a generic but entertaining ride. Its R-rated thrills (which include strong violence and a bit of brief nudity by Tabatha Shaun, as Anna’s friend Kristen) provide a watchable diversion without ever being more than a standard-issue genre exercise.

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Chaz Lipp is a Seattle-based freelance writer whose focus is music and film. As “The Other Chad,” he has written for the online magazine Blogcritics since 2008. When he’s not writing, Chaz can be found trolling jazz clubs, attempting to find somewhere to play his sax (whether anyone wants to hear…

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