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!

EVIL Fillets Family Strife. “Broil” reviewed! (Well Go USA Entertainment / Blu-ray)

Chance Sinclair is a rebellious 17-year-old closeted lesbian and Catholic student.  After a couple of school related incidents she didn’t instigate, Chance’s parents send her to live with her despotic grandfather, August Sinclair, despite her parents’ reluctance.  August rules with an iron-fist not only with his grandchildren, but with his entire family of powerful elitists who have a dark secret – they’re actually soul harvesting demons preying on the malintents around the world and is headed by August.   When Chance’s parents want out of the family business and reclaim their daughter from August’s authoritative grip, they hire a culinary prodigy with a skill for assassinations for a grand dinner that’ll have the whole family in attendance.  Chance is ignorant of her family’s history and the balance of power is not the only stake served on the menu, but also Chance’s very soul hangs in the very midst of the Sinclair’s family game night of internal carnage. 

Like a Gothic storybook enclosed with deception, murder, and unhallowed demons at their last supper, “Broil” is a going to hell in a handbasket supernatural feast and an unholy coming-to-age sophomore feature from by the upcoming “Cosmic Sin” writer-director Edward Drake and co-written alongside Piper Mars.  The 2020 Canadian murder-for-hire thriller vies against the stylish similarities of the “Twilight” saga with well-groomed, well-off, and sophisticated groups of strangers bound as family from supernatural circumstances, but distills itself out the frivolous teeny-bop pulp and teen heartthrobs for a modestly R-rated cutthroat kindred melodrama by the netherworld’s most notorious soul-suckers, shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.  “Broil” Is produced by “Cabin Fever 2:  Spring Fever” executive producer, Corey Large, and first time producer Kashif Pasta with 308 Entertainment (“It Follows”) and Good Complex serving as production companies. 

“Broil” doesn’t denote a lead character at the heart of this story, but pinpoints principles along a chaptered structure, signifying their importance by following them with an objective point of view.  The whole setup begins with the granddaughter, Chance Sinclair, who a bit rough around the edge and doesn’t play with her schoolmates, especially having an affinity for the same sex while being a student in a Catholic school, but that factoid doesn’t blossom into thing though be noted a couple of times.  Instead, Chance, played by Avery Konrad in her first principle character role, struggles with her teenage angst and hormones like any more adolescent, but she finds her educational woes pale in comparison under her family’s archaic secret ruled by the patriarchal domination of August Sinclair, a ruthless enforcer and head of the family business brought to an autocratic fruition by Irish actor Timothy V. Murphy (“Snowpiercer” television series). While Chance and August strongly convey a presence in the first act, Jonathan Lipnicki reins in the latter acts in an unexpressed spectrum performance of Sydney “The Chef” Lawson, a calculating killer taking out the transgressional trash informed by a mentor and father-like man named Freddie Jones, “Jason vs. Freddy’s” Lochlyn Munro, who may or may not have ulterior motives in exploiting The Chef’s gift for murder. Lipnicki’s work is a culinary delight in as much as The Chef’s actually culinary expertise, braising the character to eventually be the mainstay character. There are other exigent roles that seem important, but are only keystones that hold more principles roles from crumbling, such as Chance’s parents, June (Annette Reilly “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina”) and December (Nels Lannarson “The Cabin in the Woods”) Sinclair, who initiate the murder-for-hire spark that set things in motion. Rounding out “Broil” is Corey Large, Megan Peta Hill, Abby Ross, Jenna Berman, Phoebe Miu, Alyson Bath, David Hennessey, John Cassini, and Kyra Zagorsky.

Playing out in chapters, “Broil” feels like a murder-mystery adapted from a on fleek novel written by a panache author from Switzerland, but from what I’ve researched, “Broil” is an original narrative only to be segmented to amass refined character details and redirect turn of events as they unfold. However, the chaptering aspect veers the narrative off course, careening “Broil” more toward edit oblivion that doesn’t layer the foundation properly causing as much confusion as the inhuman characters trying to decide whether the Sinclairs are either vampires, demons, witches, or some kind of incubus-succubus blend for a better part of the film. A theme that doesn’t withstand the pressures of Drake’s zigzag directional layout is the unholy atmosphere the Sinclair’s protrude into the world. Chance, who is ignorant of her lineage and of what she really is, turns crosses upside down, turns crucifix necklaces ablaze, and her family sends her unusual gifts like parceled decorated daggers as seen on sacrificial stones, but the satanic tropes cease to do little more than be hints bound to expose the Sinclair’s true selves and really nothing to do with Satan himself, leaving much of the Sinclair powers left unexplained, like their lightning speed and pulsating purple glow that illuminates in patches under the skin (another “Twilight” element?). The acting is palpable, even if it’s melodramatic and under a slew of unlikeable characters, and the story does throw a few notable curve balls, some wickedly diabolical knuckle curves involving eating a child, to intrigue an inch by inch progression of the story. “Broil” unsheathes moments of Gothic schadenfreude, but the moments are fleeting, too short and far in between, to swimmingly bask in the horror of demonic soul snatchers in the throes of a murderous coup d’état.

A delicacy unlike anything you’ve ever experienced, “Broil” is served onto a Blu-ray release as the plat de jour distributed by Well Go USA Entertainment. The unrated film is region A coded and presented in high-definition, 1080p, of a 16:9 widescreen format. Details on the image render very soft, undiscerning outlines that infuse where a person ends and the background begins, but as the lighting choices change from flared hues to more hard lighting, profiles are to take more shape. Director of photography Wai Sun Cheng, making his introduction into feature films, keeps the focus primary in the foreground, obscuring the backdrop just enough to make it still perceivable and mixes well in the extreme close ups with wide angled shots to not be a one trick cinematographer. The English language 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio has severe troubles with Hugh Wielenga’s score tremendously overpowers everything else with a profound overlap. The composition is so unbalanced and loud that the resonating LFE completely drowns out the dialogue at times. “Broil” does not contain any feature specific special features other than a static menu containing upcoming previews of other Well Go USA films. Despite the title and the infernal nature, “Broil” is a dish served too cold with an unsavory plot of a young woman’s coming of age tribulations in midst of family squabbles and treachery that Edward Drake couldn’t quite fuse together.

Pre-order “Broil” at Amazon.com

EVIL’s Fixed on Not Letting Go. “The Intruder” reviewed!


Scott and Annie Russell have it all. Two successful millennials living and working comfortably and successfully in urban San Francisco. There’s just one issue with their life, Annie wants children to raise outside the city. Their house hunting ventures takes them more than an hour outside the city to wine country, Napa Valley, where a serene and beautiful English style cottage rests privately around a nature preserve and becomes the ideal home prospect for Annie. The homeowner, Charlie Peck, seems eager for the married couple to purchase his home that has been in his family for three generations, even knocking down the price and leaving all the furnishings to sweeten the deal. After purchasing the house of Annie’s dreams, Scott makes due with his work in San Francisco, leaving Annie home alone for most of the week, but when Charlie keeps showing up at their doorstep, a frustrated Scott knows something just isn’t normal about the former owner who develops an obsessive fascination with his wife and won’t let go of his beloved home so easily.

From Deon Taylor, the director of “Traffik,” comes the 2019 suspenseful horror-thriller “The Intruder.” Penned by David Loughery, a writer who knows a little something-something about obsession thrillers with his work on “Lakeview Terrace” and “Obsessed,” “The Intruder” becomes a trifecta completing hit of dark compulsions shot actually not in California, but in Vancouver as an alternative in filming in the sacred Napa Valley. What could be said as a concoction of the over-friendly cable guy from “The Cable Guy” mixed thoroughly through a Bullet blender with Ray Liotta’s fixated Officer Peter Davis in “Unlawful Entry” and out pours “The Intruder” with all the creepy niceties of a mania driven illness to a subconsciously dangerous idiosyncrasy set in today’s paradigms for a new generation of thrill seekers.

With a couple of exceptions, “The Intruder’s” cast doesn’t impress, especially with Michael Ealy who shutters a range of intensity and temperament as once showcased as the psychopathic Theo in Fox’s television hit, “The Following.” Ealy, who will be the lead star in the upcoming “Jacob’s Ladder” remake, designates a flat and removed performance for a rather more than ordinary husband with a checkered past with women who are not his wife. Opposite Ealy is “Saw V’s” Meagan Good as a brighter star amongst the relatively small key cast with a tighter grip on the wholesomely ingenuous Annie. Perhaps very similar to herself according to the behind-the-scenes feature accompanying the home video release, Annie’s humble positivity blooms the potential weight effect of Charlie Peck’s devious charisma that explodes to a head when Peck’s good guy mask has been removed. Like many reviews before this one, Dennis Quaid opens incredulous eyes as Charlie Peck. The then 64 year old actor, whose worked with screenwriter Loughery in the 1980’s as the star of “Dreamscape,” flaunts a muscular physique upon an inclusive depth and range of his character that really puts Quaid into a new light. “The Intruder” rounds out with Joseph Sikora (“Jack Reacher”), Alvina August (“Bad Times at the El Royale”), along with minor performances in a handful scenes or less from Erica Cerra (“Blade: Trinity”), Lili Sepe (“It Follows”), Lee Shorten (“In the End”), and “iZombie’s” Kurt Evans.

Getting through the first act without whiplash was nearly a struggle. With hardly any buildup through a speedy introduction of the Russell’s, who are the central focus of this film, one of “The Intruder’s” themes became nearly neutralized. Emotional triggers, the things and events that set us off or make us anxious, make up the very fiber of these characters, so importantly so, that their weaponized to divide and conquer the morality of their being. Annie’s emotionally deteriorating trigger is receiving a working late text from Scott because of his pre-martial affairs, verbally ripping into him when he returns home and reminding the circumstances of his last text of that nature and Scott’s traumatizing trigger stems from his youth when his brother was gunned down so every time he sees a gun, Scott’s visibly agitated and shaken. These coattail effects of these backdrop moments were implemented into the heart of the story, never emphasized initially as a flaw the character would overcome; instead, the triggers are thrown kind of haphazardly into the middle, jostled out indirectly or directly by Charlie Peck, and then revisited for the finale but doesn’t warrant a viewer appreciated response as anticipated. Peck’s trigger, of course, is losing the precious home to a relatively ungrateful couple and his trigger has been present since the start, making Charlie a more well-rounded character, even if an antagonistic one.

Screen Gems, a Sony Pictures sub-label, presents the Hidden Empire Film group production, “The Intruder,” onto DVD home video. The DVD is in an anamorphic widescreen presentation, a 2.40:1 aspect ratio, on MiniHawk Lenses digital camera as noted on IMDB. The aesthetic picture has virtually no issues, as typical digital recorded films go, but was taken aback by the lack of eloquence into cinematographer Daniel Pearl’s work. The man who began his career with “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” turned more toward his forte in the music videos, patterning sleek speedy cars with some warm neon tinting into a delicate, woven tapestry that really should have focused on the cottage itself, as a calm before the storm character in the film, but the interior and partial exterior became the game plan for Pearl. There was a scene or two where thick mist envelops the house that forebodes a menacing factor much needed throughout. The English language Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound has ample qualities and will deliver range and depth as Charlie Peck moves through a creaky old house. Dialogue is clear and welcoming. Bonus features include an alternate ending, which to be honest was about the same, deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel, cast and crew commentary, an interview style behind-the-scenes featurette. Dennis Quaid was destined for Charlie Peck, a wolf in sheep’s clothing, who shines as an absolute emphasizer on the “The Intruder’s” belaboring shock palette worthy of an effective modern horror-thriller available July 30th. Pre-order your copy below!

Pre-Order “The Intruder”