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The Guest (2014)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 1/6/2015
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 12/22/2014
Here's today's question: Where does an homage end and a straight-up rip-off begin? The musical score in The Guest doesn't sound like it's referencing John Carpenter's music or like it's influenced by John Carpenter's music, it's sounds like John Carpenter's music. To the point that I can imagine one of Carpenter's friends calling him and telling him that it was cool that he gave his time to this movie. It sounds as if composer Steve Moore woke up one morning and realized that his assignment to score The Guest was due, so he simply grabbed some tracks from Escape from New York and Christine and submitted them as his own. It's just that blatant. Unfortunately, that's just one of the many problems with this movie.
As The Guest opens, David (Dan Stevens) arrives on the doorstep of the Peterson family. He explains to Laura Peterson (Shelia Kelley) that he has just been discharged from the Army, where he served with her deceased son, Caleb. He'd promised Caleb that he'd check on the family once he got home. Laura welcomes this stranger into her home, and David soon meets the rest of the family, father Spencer (Leland Orser), daughter Anna (Maika Monroe), and son Luke (Brendan Meyer). Despite the fact that they've just met David, he quickly positions himself in the family, picking up Luke from school and accompanying Anna to a party. Not only does he appear to be a perfect gentleman, but he also assumes the mantle of watching out for the family as well. However, Anna feels that there is something weird about this soldier and she begins to do some snooping. Is David too good to be true?
The Guest comes from Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett who scored a minor hit with 2011's You're Next, a movie which did nothing for me, as I found to be very cliched. (They also made 2010'sA Horrible Way to Die, an intriguing movie which was destroyed by Wingard's inept directing style.) They've actually taken a step backwards with their latest project, as The Guest is a movie which has no idea what it wants to be, save for an advertisement for the fact that someone loves John Carpenter. Not only is the music a blatant rip-off of Carpenter, but the titles use the "John Carpenter font" and the masks from Halloween III: Season of the Witch show up at a Halloween dance. Instead of this fanboy reverence, they should have focused on making a decent movie.
OK, let's break down the issues with The Guest. First of all, only the least astute viewer won't know that David is harboring some sort of secret. If he wasn't, then this wouldn't be much of a movie (not that it is now). So, we must sit and wait for the reveal of David's mystery. In the meantime, we are forced to watch an incredibly unoriginal and unrealistic movie. From the very first frame, all that I could think was, "Who let's a stranger into their house, much less into their family." Sure, hospitality is nice, but when Laura is allowing David to take care of her kids after knowing him for only a few hours, I was ready to turn the movie off. This is combined with the hackneyed "Stranger comes into a family's life and begins to help them/sabotage things" storyline. We've seen this many times before and The Guest doesn't strive to add anything new to it.
The movie attempts to hang its hat on the twist which comes half-way through which turns The Guest into a mystery/thriller into a straight-ahead action movie. The explanation for who David is and why he acts the way that he does is laughably vague and doesn't lend any credence to the movie. (And it also doesn't make much sense. If David is who we're told that he is, why would have bothered visiting the Petersons?) All that we know is that there is a sudden shift in tone and that the movie becomes very mean-spirited. The action scenes are not exciting and the finale takes place in yet another movie high-school which has a unrealistic school dance which would have cost thousands.
"He left Downton Abbey for this?" was my wife's response to Dan Stevens presence in this stinker. I don't think Steven was written out of the hit British TV show specifically to do The Guest, but one can safely assume that he wanted to branch out and not be type-cast. But, why this movie? From the outset, this is a bad movie, which gets worse as it goes along. We are presented with unlikable characters who do stupid things and there is no real payoff at the end. I've read comments on-line where people have called this a "dark comedy" and a "throwback to 80s movies". That second remark may be appropriate, as The Guest plays like Poison Ivy crossed with The Terminator. But, don't believe the hype that this is a good movie, or, as some have said, a "fun" movie. The Guest insults the viewer by assuming that we will buy into any of this and all that it made me want to do was watch a John Carpenter film so that I could see a good movie.
The Guest also contains some references to You're Next on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 32 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look good (we are treated to surprisingly vibrant colors for a genre movie) and the image is never overly dark or bright. The picture shows a nice amount of detail and the depth is good. The image is very stable and consistent throughout. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The stereo effects are well-done and alert us to off-screen sounds at times. The surround sound effects don't simply replicate the front channels and deliver some individual sounds during the finale. The subwoofer comes into play during some explosions.
The Guest Blu-ray Disc contains a few extra features. We begin with an AUDIO COMMENTARY from Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett. The Disc contains seven DELTED SCENES which run about 15 minutes, and can be viewed with commentary from Wingard and Barrett. The bulk of these are simply excised moments from the finished films. We don't get any new characters or subplots here, and one moment actually belongs on a gag reel. "Q&A with Dan Stevens" (3 minutes) has the actor discussing the film and his role, which unfortunately contains clips from the film, so we actually don't get many comments from Stevens.
Review Copyright 2014 by Mike Long