Be Our Guest, Put Dan Stevens’ service to the test

The question is simple: Who is David? The Guest asks without expecting an answer. This is a film of anticipation, a crude but smart mid-level thriller which acts as an outlaw of the studio system and engorges on that freedom.

David is played by Dan Stevens, cold eyes and comforting voice. He is introduced with jarring, uncomfortable edits and loud sounds. This former Army vet is all wrong. How so is The Guest’s mystery.

With a wry, sensitive self-awareness, The Guest is unnervingly pleasurable. Steven’s buff appearance and aligned facial features create a body for a potentially misanthropic soldier. The Guest says little – it mostly exists for its own selfish glee – but its openness regarding the sexualization and attraction to cinema’s wicked has no parallel.

Steve Moore’s piercingly electronic music selection and score is a hopelessly outdated relic that is perfectionism in application.

The film is an abundance of pointlessness which in a rare (only?) case is weirdly why it proves successful. David snugly works his way into a mourning suburban family’s life, invited in for his knowledge of their deceased son. Emotionally torn mother Laura (Sheila Kelly), outcast son Luke (Brendan Meyer), stressed husband Spencer (Leland Orser), and disengaged teen Anna (Maika Monroe) make up the Peterson’s, a family destined for horror film immortality and little else. These characters work to build David rather than David building them, winking brightly at an audience awaiting bloodshed.

Covered in Halloween paraphernalia, The Guest runs through (and over) cliches, tightly restricting itself to the filmmaking ploys of slashers, thrillers, and action stars of the ’80s. Steve Moore’s piercingly electronic music selection and score is a hopelessly outdated relic that is perfectionism in application. Narrative tricks seem to be building toward something outside of Guest’s wonky reality, but no. It becomes more essential that The Guest stays in the story it chose as an influence, with its characters reacting to their absurd circumstances.

The Guest eventually satisfies a quota for kills and mayhem, although it does so by running rampant through all of its vintage material, albeit with modern perspective. Dopey and aimless as it may be in its lust for violence, the unconventional yet conventional approach is mighty smart, bravely asking its viewers to look inward a bit while fattening up on old fashioned, nostalgic cruelty.

Movie ★★★★☆ 

Nice guy Dave @ 4:30

What The Guest cannot fall back on is its look. While insisting on acting like a recovering addict of ’80s horror culture, it looks all too new. Credit the clarity of digital cinematography which even as it adds some noise to rough itself up. The cleanliness is like an outsider.

All of the perks are here: Resolution, fine detail, consistent look. Close-ups are well managed for crisp fidelity with only a handful seemingly falling victim to any post-production tinkering. Much of this feature makes use of conversation with the camera in tight. Image stability is crucial even if it feels false.

Pedestrian color timing leverages typical flesh tones with a slight warmth. Other primaries are applied with care, giving The Guest some brightness and dazzle. In fact, most of this one is openly bright with dense contrast. Black levels are adequately layered with shadow detail preserved. The finale, indoors at an attraction at night, shows off their full depth.

Compression work on all of this from Universal is fine.

Video ★★★★☆ 

Most of The Guest is outside of the action realm. DTS-HD mastering is carried by ambiance, inside schools or bars. The effect is light but works. Especially nifty is the throwback score which has all of the electronic discomfort preserved in full clarity.

Third act mayhem is where everything is allowed to play, using a bevy of gunfire to hit each channel, slowing down to catch each round in slow motion to the subwoofer’s delight, and a wild finish inside a haunted house-like display. While somewhat typical in terms of positioning – nothing can be considered grand or original – each speaker is given time to work. As a bonus, there is an explosion to add some pop to the low-end. Expected if done well.

Audio ★★★★☆ 

Director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett handle commentating duties, having some fun to make their chat worth listening to. They carry the conversation over to some painfully deleted scenes (15-minutes worth) and a short Q&A with Dan Stevens about his character.

Extras ★★☆☆☆ 


Click on the images below for full resolution screen captures taken directly from the Blu-ray. Images have not been altered in any way during the process.