We open on a man jogging, seen only from behind. His strong gate, and forceful breathing suggests he jogs with purpose. Then, a title card slams down over a blaring synth, as if to confirm our suspicions. This man isn’t out for a casual run. Moments later we fade in on a field where we see a scarecrow with a giant pumpkin head. In a little more than a minute, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett have set up the basics: a purposeful mysterious stranger enters a small town in the midst of Halloween. If nothing else, The Guest is going to be a fun, strange trip.

I knew next to nothing about The Guest before watching it, and set low expectations. In fact, it’s a thriller that packs an unforgettable punch and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Much of the credit goes to Dan Stevens, who is both charismatic and creepy as the guest in the film’s title.

As The Guest begins, we’re introduced to the to the Peterson family, particularly, Laura Peterson (Sheila Kelly) who is still really struggling with the death of their oldest son Caleb who was killed in Afghanistan. A man knocks on their door, and introduces himself as David (Stevens), a close friend of Caleb’s from the military. He says he has come to fulfill a dying promise to Caleb. Apparently, a real gentleman, David assures Laura and her husband and her husband Spencer (Leland Orser) that he has no desire to overstay his welcome, but the family bonds with him quickly, and insists that he stay on. He appears to be the perfect houseguest; helpful around the house, he even teaches high school student Luke (Brendan Meyer), how to defend himself against a group of bullies. In fact, David is so helpful to the family, it’s impossible not to think something is ‘off’ about him.

Some of The Guest’s best moments involve David’s efforts to protect the Peterson children. Luke, a shy, smart kid is relentlessly bullied by a group of athletes. Very early on, it’s clear that David will be giving these jerks a taste of their own medicine. Twenty-year-old Anna (Maika Monroe) is slower to warm up to David’s charms. From the start, she’s suspicious of who David really is, and those suspicions are confirmed when a number of violent incidents start happening around town. Of course, Anna’s mom and dad refuse to believe that David could have anything to with it all.

While The Guest follows some familiar conventions of the mystery/thriller genre, it delivers them in a way that feels unique and fresh. The violence is brutal, and genuinely shocking. No character is safe; there is hero. This movie belongs to Dan Stevens. Best known for his role as Matthew Crawley on TV’s Downton Abbey, he has bulked up, exudes charisma, and seems destined to be a movie star. As it happens, the ending of The Guest lends itself to a sequel, and it would be interesting to see more of the twisted sense of humor Dan Stevens brings to the role of David.

Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Universal has provided an excellent 1080p transfer. Despite some dimly lit scenes, clarity and detail is strikingly sharp throughout. Depth is fantastic, offering an almost three-dimensionality to the proceedings. Colors are appropriate throughout, and black levels are inky. Skin tones look natural throughout. There’s no dirt or debris to speak of.

The English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track delivers a fairly dynamic mix. It highlights the synthesizer-heavy soundtrack and offers clear dialogue throughout. Occasionally, things sound a tad subdued, but it does affect the film too negatively. Sound effects panning is efficient, though not aggressive. While it’s not the best mix, it works very well for this film.

English SDH, Spanish, and French subtitles are included.

The following extras are available:

  • Audio Commentary with Director Adam Wingard and Writer Simon Barrett: In what they describe as a winged conversation, the two men discuss their intentions fir the film.
  • Deleted Scenes (HD, 15:00) The following deleted scenes are offered with a Play All option as well as an optional commentary: Deleted Original Opening, Extended Introduction to Peterson Family, Anna Finds David’s Gun, Anna Meets David with Film Cut For Comparison, David Confronts Anna, Clown Gag and Zeke’s Bedroom.
  • Q & A with Dan Stevens (HD, 2:32) An extremely brief interview with actor.
  • DVD of the film.
  • Digital Copy.
  • Ultraviolet Copy.