2014’s Drive? No, but a surprise gem in its own right...
The Guest Film Review
This low budget indie mystery thriller from the makers of the superb – and equally unpredictable – horror-thriller You’re Next, plays out as a surprisingly stylish blend of The Hitcher and Drive, complete with all the requisite retro 80s accoutrements. And it may just end up being one of your favourite films of the year.Right from the opening title card – which looks like it could have been lifted directly from any one of a dozen different 80s horrors – and brooding, electronic John Carpenter-esque score thwapping away in the background, you know that this is going to be something very different from anything you could have possibly expected.
The Guest plays with your expectations at every turn, drawing you in, toying with you, manipulating you, and then spinning you around so that you don’t know which way is up. With a compelling lead performance, and excellent supporting contributions; an outstanding 80s-flavour diegetic soundtrack and haunting electronic score; and atmospheric, claustrophobic style heightening the tension at every stage, this is one of the greatest sleeper gems of the year – a festival-celebrated indie flick which may well blow you away.Indeed you can tell a lot more about this film from the stylish GTA: Vice City-style promo poster than from its misleading Trailer; a simple silhouette feature which better reflects the intentions of the filmmakers, who have knowingly paid tribute to a whole horde of 80s features – from the likes of John Carpenter, Michael Mann and William Friedkin; and even also the kinds of films that Van Damme and Seagal may have once starred in – but blended them all in to one magical melting pot; part action-thriller, part suspense-horror, and all against expectations.
In much the same way that Joe Wright’s superb action-thriller, Hanna, took a Bourne-like premise and envisioned it as seen through a wondrous dark fairytale lens, all set to a stomping diegetically-implemented score from The Chemical Brothers, The Guest pools its retro 80s ingredients into a very unique mould, simmering with serious intensity, despite a seemingly innocuous build-up; ready to dip into action – and horror – fields at a moment’s notice, and throw you off the ride if you’re not holding on tightly.
The Guest Blu-ray Picture QualityThe Guest comes to UK Region Free Blu-ray complete with a largely excellent 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation that thoroughly impresses. Detail is superior from start to finish, offering up stunning close-ups, wonderful longer broad-shot vistas, and some resounding darker sequences, which boast impressive shadow detail.
Whilst not quite as vividly striking as some of its sibling counterparts, The Guest is still a frequently impressively stylish piece, and it looks largely excellent in HD.
The colour scheme is broad and vibrant, picking up some wonderful natural tones in the landscape and providing some refined night sequences which never falter, not even for a second. There are a few more primary-inclined shots, and little things, like the various outfits that the lead girl wears, provide some interesting colour dynamics, but, considering some of the promo artwork, the style is still surprisingly restrained. It never looks worse for it though.
The image comes clean and free from any overt digital defects, but it also doesn’t smack of sheer reference perfection, instead nudging comfortably into impressive demo territory and remaining utterly faithful to the source material.
The Guest Blu-ray Sound QualityOn the aural front things are just as impressive, which is a relief because, perhaps even moreso than the visuals, this film rides high on its electric 80s-inspired score and superbly-chosen song tracks. Dialogue and effects play important parts, of course, but it’s the music that inspires, energises and engulfs at every turns, frequently operating diegetically to pull you further into the mysterious maelstrom.
There’s no chance that it’ll knock Drive off the top spot in terms of score/soundtrack perfection, but kudos for giving it a damn good shot, with The Guest’s music playing a vital part in the proceedings.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout, largely dominating the frontal array where necessary, and remaining distinctive even in spite of the lead character’s reserved vocals. Effects are mostly ambient background touches for the first half, with only a few body blows, snaps and thuds peppered around before the guns start thundering. When they come out, however, the soundtrack thunders to life, drawing upon the full power and presence of both the surrounds and the LFE channel. Beyond all of that, however, is the quintessentially 80s electronic score; a synth-dominated work of art which is almost good enough to reign supreme even without the excellently chosen song tracks peppered throughout, but which only does better for having them too. John Carpenter should be worried that somebody may have cloned him for his distinctive synth ‘skills’.
The Guest Blu-ray ExtrasOn the supplementals front we get a small but decent selection of extras which largely marries up to those included on the US counterpart (released after the UK Blu-ray, for once). Headlined by a strong Audio Commentary by Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett who take us through their vision, discussing their ideas, the background to the piece, the production and the cast, and even throwing a few anecdotes into the mix. Of course, given the mysterious nature of the movie, they also impart a fair amount of background information into the characters and narrative, which should be of particular interest. Beyond that we get a quarter of an hour of Deleted Footage, split into a half a dozen extra scenes and an Alternate Opening. There’s nothing desperately vital here, but it’s worth skimming through nonetheless. The disc is rounded off by a number of Preview Trailers as well as the Original Theatrical Trailer for the main feature, which is woefully (although perhaps intentionally) misleading, selling the film as an 80s Van Damme actioner in much the same way that the Drive trailer made it look like a low budget Fast and the Furious driving movie.
The Guest Blu-ray Verdict
The Guest may not ever be the iconic masterpiece that Drive has swiftly become, but it’s also far more accessible than anything Refn has produced – and infinitely more satisfying than his elusive Only God Forgives – and will hopefully be heralded as one of the better gems to come out of 2014; a sleeper surprise that deserves your attention.
Mysteriously creepy, consistently disarming and wonderfully insistent on breaking the mould, The Guest is a great follow-up from the guys who brought us the equally refreshing You’re Next.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get excellent video and audio as well as the same solid – if limited – selection of extras as adorn the US counterpart. We also get the option of a superbly designed steelbook variation too, for those who want to immortalise this future cult classic. Highly recommended, this one certainly deserves a blind buy.
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