Blu-Ray Review: The Guest

Published on January 16th, 2015 in: Blu-Ray, Current Faves, DVD/Blu-Ray Reviews, Movie Reviews, Movies, Reviews |

By Megashaun

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There’s only so much one can say about The Guest without starting to spoil the film’s many finely-crafted layers of plot revelation. But the setup in itself was intriguing enough for me to want to watch it, along with the knowledge that this comes to us from the extremely humorous, twisted, and subversive team of Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett who also brought us the excellent You’re Next (review).

While The Guest is different from You’re Next in terms of plot and genre, it does share a good number of similarities, mainly in terms of its feel, which ultimately comes down to the way the film is paced, framed, acted, and scored. It’s also incredibly funny, sometimes at unexpected moments.

We get subtle glimpses of who the film’s characters are—or aren’t—through slightly expositive bits of dialogue (where what people are saying is just as important as what they’re not saying) and of course, their facial expressions.

This is perhaps most true in the case of David, played by Dan Stevens. The young man is seen running by the roadside as the film opens, and it’s not long before he rings the doorbell of the Peterson rural family home. Laura, the mother, opens the door and is greeted by the image of a wholesome, All-American young man with bright eyes and an “aww, shucks” smirk that conjures memories of Christopher Reeve’s as Clark Kent. David explains that he served in the military with Laura’s deceased son, Caleb, and that his visit is to fulfill the son’s dying wish: to make sure they’re OK.

David quickly and effortlessly ingratiates himself with nearly every member of the family. It’s not long before the father, Spencer, is drinking beer with him. The son, Luke, almost immediately accepts David as the new older brother, especially because of David’s brotherly (if not strange) advice about bullies. It’s only Anna, Luke’s older sister, who seems to be hesitant to trust him—but she doesn’t seem too likely to trust anybody for that matter. Still, one night out partying sways her opinion in his favor soon enough.

But this wouldn’t be a Wingard/Barrett film if things weren’t constantly in flux. Even while David is still being established as a surrogate son and brother, we see glimpses that something might be a little off about him. There are some shades of Bob Clark’s 1974 film Deathdream, where a presumed-dead son returns home from war but is also not quite the same. David’s differences are shown in minor ways at first. After all, it can all be chalked up to PTSD, can’t it?

What’s amazing here is how we are meant to feel about David. We know from the start there’s something else—something strange—about him, but we still like him. He’s funny, handsome, and just so darn polite. He genuinely wants to help the Petersons, and he fits right in. In fact, the family’s tensions seem to disappear when he’s around. But even as David gives the film’s bad people their comeuppance in the most efficient and brutal of ways, we can’t help but feel, “fuck yes!” even when he’s doing some incredibly terrible things. In a way, our feelings for David grow and change in sync with the feelings of the Peterson family—and we get to see him do things that they don’t!

While the music in the film is excellent and moody throughout, the action sequences are punctuated by heavy, dark synth arpeggios, scored by Zombi’s Steve Moore. We know that when the sound starts to build up, we can expect David to do something completely badass. Music plays heavily into the relationship between David and Anna, as well, and this in turn plays nicely in the film’s final act.

One of the things I like most about The Guest is that while it offers answers to some questions about its characters, it also raises a hell of a lot more. As far as rewatchability is concerned, this is one of very few films I feel like starting again from the beginning as the credits roll. And there are nice, subtle hints throughout that are easier to pick up on the second (third, or fourth) time around.

The Guest was released through D Films on January 6. The Blu-ray includes some extras, including alternate/deleted scenes that show good decisions were made in the editing room, as well as a feature commentary track by Wingard and Barrett.

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