“I’m a friend of the family.”
Somehow, it’s already been 7 years since Adam Wingard’s The Guest was released, yes it was 2014 (!), but now we’ve got this absolutely stellar limited edition dual 4K UHD and Blu-ray release from Second Sight Films, and it’s worth every penny of your investment!
The Guest is a curious mix of being a cult homage to the likes of John Carpenter, and those classic thriller/horrors, but it’s also got a dark sense of humour, and self-awareness, without ever becoming cheap or excessively unbelievable, despite a crazy premise. The film stars Dan Stevens as David, a military veteran who turns up at the house of a soldier friend, Caleb, who has recently died. Even from the start, it’s difficult to tell whether he’s telling the truth or not, as that Downton-attachment is immediately thrown aside and we’re in the realm of David, a charming, yet disarming, character who might be an old friend, or might be any old stranger.
Over a short space of time, and because grief does all kinds of things to people, David becomes part of the Peterson family, passing on messages from Caleb, helping his parents get some things sorted in their lives and also helping their son with his self-esteem and bullying issues. But not everyone is immediately charmed, not quite, as their daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) begins to doubt his tale and begins digging into his past to see if he is, who he says he is.
If you’ve never seen The Guest, it’s a difficult one to discuss once the secrets and stories begin to reveal themselves, but it’s definitely worth the wait. In this Second Sight Films release though, the UHD (with Dolby Vision HDR) element looks outstanding, sharp and punchy in its colours, scenes and sequences – evoking the aforementioned Carpenter but also something in the vein of Drive, with its neon colour-schemes and pulsing soundtrack and score, the latter by Steve Moore.
While The Guest has that 70s and 80s inspiration, Wingard has created his own cult favourite here – and one I’m happy to revisit. From the opening scenes that feel like 78’s Halloween, and later The Fog, with that silence and unique atmosphere, there’s a curious story that holds you right through the film, as you try to work out who David is, or isn’t, and it does come down to a superb performance from Stevens. While his piercing blue eyes are still there, his entire manner is that from the American soldier he’s portraying, his accent effortless and you believe his sincere story, and photo, even if something else doesn’t quite fit.
But then people start dying, in several ways, but it’s not all slasher, it’s steady and focused – much like David himself. In some ways he’s a bit Terminator-esque but also like an immoral Captain America in his style – which is way more fun and unsettling, something that Brightburn disappointingly missed the mark with. Wingard’s film also features a host of impressive fight sequences, which are brutal and expertly choreographed – the scene in the bar is particularly smart and effective and whilst very wrong, in many respects, you end up admiring what happens.
Maika Monroe is also excellent, at the start he’s a teenager who is clearly the only one slightly in control of her own life, compared to her family, and so it makes sense she’s the one who is more aware of events, plus he gets a killer arc that takes her from being somewhat despondent about the life around her, to an absolute badass with all the right fight. There’s also strong ensemble support from the likes of Leland Orser, Sheila Kelley, Brendan Meyer, Lance Reddick and even a cameo from Ethan Embry.
The Guest is dark and deliciously messed up, there’s intelligent tension throughout which is unusually pleasurable as the story unravels, even if it’s a bit mad in moments, it barely matters because you’re having so much fun along the way.
The Special Edition is a beauty from Second Sight Films, while limited to just 5,000, you’re getting a sturdy slipcase boxset, with perfect artwork from Adam Stothard, plus that Dual UHD/Blu-ray and even that Various Artists Soundtrack on CD, because everybody loves a mixtape, and I mean that! That’s not all because there’s also a huge 160-page book included that contains storyboards (the scene in the Quarry anyone?), script extracts, behind-the-scenes photos, info on how the Soundtrack became a character in its own right, plus insightful essays from Tim Coleman, Zena Dixon, Craig Ian Mann and Zoe Rose Smith – all unique reflections on the world of The Guest.
Both the 4K UHD and Blu-ray have had new colour grading, supervised by the Director Wingard, plus the extras are almost endless, but in the most loving way. You’ve got all-new 2021 commentary by Wingard and writer Simon Barrett, as well as archived commentary from the pair, and deleted/alternate scenes and the always-wanted Outtake Gag Reel.
Also, the wealth of new material is everywhere, I particularly liked the recent interviews with Dan Stevens and Maika Monroe, who look back at their process of getting there but also the affect it had on both their lives – and characters ahead, plus a detailed interview with Director of Photography Robby Baumgartner, who talks about their camera work and the specifics, and the influences of cinematography and how they wanted to create something fresh.
You’ve also got new interviews with Wingard and Barrett, another with the producers Keith Calder and Jess Wu Calder, a further ‘Lightning Strikes’ interview with Production Designer Tom Hammock, a new interview with Composer Steven Moore and – yes, more! – six collectors’ cards, all in the unique style of boxset design.