Dan Stevens. The New Face of EVIL? Freakin’ Love It! “The Guest” reviewed! (Second Sight Films / BD-R Screener)

Recently hospital discharged combat soldier David Collins visits a fallen brother in arms’ family, The Petersons, to convey their son’s last moments of love for his family.  Taken immediately in by the grieving mother, David stays for a few nights at the Peterson home, quickly befriending the family of four with his military “yes ma’am” charm and good looks.  When a string of accidental and homicide related deaths begin to flare up in what’s typically a quiet rural town, eldest daughter, Anna, suspicions turn to David.  As Anna digs deeper into David’s past, nothing can stop the elite special forces soldier from taking steps to protect his identity and his mission, even if that means turning the Petersons’ hometown into a deadly warzone. 

One part action, one part slasher – Adam Wingard’s “The Guest” is a hot take on the infiltrator horror subgenre.  The “Pop Skull” and “You’re Next” director, who went on to helm the epic clash of the two biggest creatures in all of creature feature history with this year’s “Godzilla vs. Kong,” directed “The Guest” to challenge the slasher narrative with an atypical, slightly campy, American indie thriller with an unanticipated and surprising twist that’s more than just your run-of-the-mill snapped war-traumatized soldier gone shell-shocked rogue.  The script reteams “Dead Birds’” writer Simon Barrett with Wingard for their eighth collaboration that pits all the story’s action into the rural confines of an unnamed small town in America while the actual shooting location takes place in New Mexico.  “The Guest” is a production of the UK based HanWay Films, which also oversaw the production of Wingard’s “You’re Next,” and Snoot Entertainment of the zomedy “Little Monsters” from the producing management team of Keith and Jess Wu Calder.

To put things simply, Dan Stevens is scary good.  The “Downtown Abbey” star plays the titular troublemaker and, now, I will never look at Matthew Crowley the same way again.  Stevens trades out the proper aristocracy of British English with a slight American English Southern draw, a heavily used trope portrayed with U.S. troops in cinema, but Stevens does more than just talk-the-talk.  The Surrey born actor who once played the Beast in Disney’s live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast” plays a different kind of monster that’s akin to a wolf in sheep’s clothing with David, adorning his physically fit character with a clandestine depth in his ambiguous background and sociopathic tendencies that makes him very much a mysterious maniac much in the same fashion as iconic slasher villains.  Trying to stop David’s undermining reign of controlled carnage is Anna Peterson, played by Maika Monroe (“It Follows,” “Independence Day:  Resurgence”).  Ana’s a levelheaded, yet rebellious, teenager adverse to being told what to do to much of her parents chagrin from dating a pot dealer to her objection in David’s stay with them.  Monre puts angsty effort behind Anna Peterson’s eyes, but the character herself is rather flimsy willing to put her trust in an unsponsored secret organization agent, “John Wick” films’ Lance Reddick, and his request to get into his car urgently without hesitation, but has a difficult time swallowing at her own pace her dead brother’s fellow soldier even with the stamp of whole heartily approval from her parents and little brother and photographic evidence of her brother’s relationship with David.  Yet, Barrett’s openly oblivious characters play into the slasher/thriller campiness of accepting everything at face value without ever an inkling of doubt.  Perfect examples of this would be 3/4th of the Peterson family: the mother (Sheila Kelley, “A Passion to Kill”) trust him with handling routine tasks like picking up her son from school or laundry, the father (the great supporting actor Leland Orser, “Alien:  Resurrection,” “The Bone Collector”) trusts him with personal secrets, and even the school outcast brother (Brendan Meyer, “The Color of Space”) desperately believes David is his friend.  Tabatha Shaun, Joel David Moore, Ethan Embry, Chase Williamson, and Steven Brown co-star.

Pulling loads of admiration and inspiration from the “Halloween” franchise, “The Guest” not only rocks as an action thriller but also mimicking a retrograded slasher in a subgenre slapped with a label I like to call the infiltrator subgenre.  David Collins is no mindless, walking and not talking, killing machine like The Shape, but instead gains trust, backdoors problems, and has the quick confident moves to see the job through with hand-to-hand combat and other more visceral merciless methods.  Barrett and Wingard purposefully leave much to the imagination with David’s past, turning what would usually outcome as frustrating ambiguity for an essential character to more of an enigmatic antagonist allure similar to the way we don’t have a clear-cut motivation why Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees shish kabob horny teens without a second thought.  Sure, there are sequels that try to enlighten reasons, such as being pure evil, but abstract is not concrete.  Same with “The Guest” with a control spoon feeding of just enough backstory to wet one’s thirst for more on David’s ruthless sociopathic behavior.  David’s also a very likeable with the impression that his good deeds done in violence speaks to a justice-driven character, but what’s brilliant about David, and enhanced profoundly by Dan Stevens, is that when he does kill someone in cold blood for this first time, the impact is tremendously unreal because it’s unexpected and off brand from the Barrett and Wingard’s buildup of him being a standup and do-what’s-right soldier.

Second Sight Films invites you to be their guest for their limited edition 4K Ultra Hi-Defintionand Blu-ray of Adam Wingard’s “The Guest” that hit retail shelves this month on October 25th.  The stunning makeover of this cult favorite, limited to 5,000 copies, offers a brand new color grading for both formats supervised by Wingard with 4K UHD presented in Dolby Vision HDR.  Since a BDR was provided, commenting on the exact audio and video quality of the release isn’t possible, but rest assured, knowing the care and attention Second Sight Films put into their releases, “The Guest” will surely not overstay it’s welcome in the image and audio department.  The film has runtime at 100 minutes and a UK 15 certification; however, there is much more to this 3-disc release that includes the film’s 80’s inspired soundtrack on a compact disc.  Special features include new Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett commentary plus an archive commentary track from the two filmmakers, a new interview with actor Dan Stevens The Uninvited Guest, a new interview with actress Maika Monroe A Perfect Stranger, a new interview with Wingard and Barett By Invitation Only, a new interview with producers Keith and Jessica Wu Calder Producing the Guest, a new interview with director of photography Robby Baumgartner Light and Fog, a new interview with production designer Tom Hammock Lightning Strikes, a new interview with composer Steve Moore The Sounds of The Guest, and deleted and alternate including an outtake gag with optional director commentary.  With this limited release comes a rigid slipcase with new artwork by Adam Stothard, 160-page booklet with new essays by script to screen storyboards and extracts, behind the scenes photos, Wingard’s soundtrack notes, and new essays about the film, and, lastly, 6 collector’s art cards. In a time when modern horror desperately needs a solid sequel, “The Guest” is a good candidate with it’s captivating villain with so much story still left to tell. Hopefully, Second Sight Films’ irrefutable powerhouse release will ignite step-taking action amongst the rumors.

Grab it fast!  Liminted Edition “The Guest” on 4K UHD and Blu-ray Now at Amazon.com!

Nothing Says EVIL Like a Woman Scorned! “Revenge” reviewed! (Second Sight / BR Screener)


Richard, a wealthy businessman, and Jen, his young, candy arm mistress, helicopter in onto Richard’s desert retreat house. While his wife and children are at home, Richard plans to spend his time away relishing a pleasurable weekend that involves relaxing by the outdoor firepit, swimming in the infinity pool, being sultry with Jen, and do a bit of hunting along the mountains, canyons, and riverbeds. When Richard’s associates, Stan and Dimitri, arrive a day early, a party filled night rapidly ensues, but events turn sour when Jen is brutally attacked the next day and Richard plans to snuff out the scandal before it unravels to ruin him. Unwilling to cooperate with a coverup, Jen is nearly murdered by her three attackers only to arise like the rebirth of the Phoenix, igniting a vengeful fire inside her as she uses everything she has at her disposal to finish what they started.

In a day and age when the slightest bit of a woman’s attention can explode into a vile reaction of testosterone warped misguidance and it’s the woman who is shamed as the accosted criminal being barked at aggressively by the unequivocal fearful and condemning voices of the male species, it’s movies like Coralie Fargeat’s action-packed “Revenge” that symbolizes woman’s resiliencies against men’s efforts in a show of violent force that’s “First Blood” without John Rambo, but rather with a scorned princess for retributive capital justice. “Revenge” is the French filmmaker’s first full-length penned and directed feature film that’s one gritty and bloody grindhouse vindictive sonovabitch, a pure punch to the throat, and a direct message to misogyny everywhere. Filmed in the Morocco desert during Winter, the small cast is swallowed by the vastly arid landscape of transfixing cruelty, a synonymous parallel to the feat the heroine Jen is drawn to task. It’s also a feat that Fargeat managed to salvage to finally release a rape-revenge thriller backed by a conglomerate of production firms and financiers to stand with a film from a first time director whose treatment offers up maltreatment of women, such as the rape, along with the savagery, the concept of revenge, and ridiculous amounts of blood. M.E.S. Productions, Monkey Pack Films, Charades, Logical Pictures, Nextas Factory and Umedia are just to name a few of the production companies to be supporting capital.

With a role embodying the symbolic brutalization of physical and mental rape, a role of complete loneliness in a fatal skirmish against their attackers, and in a role forsaken in the face of death only to be reborn from the ashes of their former self, Matilda Lutz’s fully charged capacity to tackle such a demanding performance is beyond praiseworthy, scrapping the timid traits from Jen’s ravaged glossy persona and replacing with a rigid exterior ready and willing to combat to the death. The Italian born Lutz has to go through a metamorphosis and refashion Jen to be able to differentiate from her more bubbly first half self as the easy kill or the disposable male plaything. In a twisted turn of events, Jen’s mortal adversaries have every advantage to douse out Jen’s existence: gear, guns, vehicles, clothes, water, fuel, numbers, etc. Yet, despite all the advantages, the desert, much like Jen, is unforgiving as it is bare. Richard (Kevin Janssens), Stan (Vincent Colombe), and Guillaume Bouchede (Dimitri) exude the utmost confidence their grip around Jen’s throat. Janssens’ fortifies as the rigorous cutthroat, a misogynistic philanderer, determined to save his own skin no matter the cost while Colombe’s Stan is a retracting coward with regretful impulses. Colombe’s brings the comedy to a grimly tale and positions Stan to be the teetering villain tarnished by his guilt of nearly killing Jen, but never apologizes to being the catalytic rapist that initiates the whole debacle. Bouchede supplements with his divestment to charm as the overweight, do-nothing witness to save Jen from Stan’s seizing urges. As Dimitri, Bouchede stalls his typical niceties to be the silent violator who can open up the flood gates of aggression when transgression warrants it.

“Revenge” has an ultra-violent and super-synth finish chapping with multiple motifs of a rebirth theme and supplies a hefty bloodletting of incorporeal measures. Knocking it out of the park in her first feature film, Fargeat’s cauterizes the unnerving serious tone with alleviated black comedy of the bloodiest kind. The roundabout endgame chase comes to mind, involving a frazzled Jen and a wounded, but indomitable Richard in a merry-go-round of a shotgun standoff is some of the best editing work of fast and ferocious content I’ve seen in some time while still able to vitalize a transparent sense of what’s occurring. However, not all the slick editing is flawless. Some minor inconsistencies in the editing are noticeable and while these moments of lapse are not detrimental or pivotal to the story, they reflect Fargeat’s challenges of making a hyper-stylized action-thriller in her freshman full-length feature. In a sense, everything Fargeat’s deploys positions “Revenge” into a surreal tonality, glamorized for those thirsty for blood gushing in a canyon-vast desert bristled with rape and payback where a mere four players in this ebb and flow game of killer combat chess can effortlessly locate each other, but one can always find their prey by following their blood trail, another motif that continues to pop up that speaks metaphors of their life blood is the very object gives them away in the end.

Giving the limited edition treatment that it deserves, Second Sight Films’s Blu-ray release of “Revenge” is a mouthwatering narcotic of raging cathexis and while the Blu-ray BD-R can’t be technically critiqued, the LE release offers HD 1080p transfer of the original, 2.39:1 aspect ratio and sports an English language DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix. While Fargeat might be inspired by Lynchian themes, the cinematography work by Robrecht Heyvaert also resembles “Pitch Black” director David Twohy’s films with making something small larger than life and a particular chase scene involving all four characters at the edge of a canyon stroke a familiar chord with Twohy’s “A Perfect Getaway.” There were Second Sight Films’ exclusive bonus features included on the disc, featuring new interviews with director Carolie Fargeat and star Matilda Lutz (entitled “Out for Blood”) an interview with Dimitri actor Guillaume Bouchede (entitled “The Coward”), a interview with Robrecht Heyvaert (entitled “Fairy Tale Violence”), a new interview with composer Robin Coudert and the synth sounds of “Revenge,” and a new audio commentary by Kat Ellinger, author and editor of Diabolique. The release is sheathed inside a rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Adam Stothard as well as a poster and a new soft cover book with new writings by Mary Beth McAndrews and Elena Lazic Overall, “Revenge” received a monster packaged release ready for the taking on May 11th. “Revenge” destroys toxic masculinity and breathes a vindictive hope from the fiery embers of rebirth and destruction.