in Shocktober

The Guest (2014)

We come now to my last assignment of Shocktober 2016, The Guest, a film that, in keeping the tradition of what I’ve written about this year, hardly deserves to be called “horror.” Although writing that makes me feel kind of terrible about myself, because the events depicted surely are horrific. But give me some credit guys, I’m not some desensitized monster, it just sounds like the last episode of The Walking Dead was way more grotesque and terrifying than this entire movie.

It’s easy to imagine the pitch for The Guest was something along this lines of “It’s My Bodyguard (or maybe even Drillbit Taylor) except the bodyguard is an evil Jason Bourne.” And damnit if that doesn’t sound as fun as the movie actually is. It’s a rip-roarin’, ass-kickin’, knife-flippin’ adventure, complete with a scene at a prom. But it’s from the guys who made You’re Next and the recent Blair Witch revival, so I guess it’s horror.

The film opens with David (Dan Stevens, Downton‘s Matthew) running through the American countryside. He arrives at a house, where he meets the Peterson family, who are still grieving the loss of their eldest son, a soldier who died in Afghanistan. David explains that he was their son’s best friend during the war, and had promised to check in on them as soon as he made it back the states. David’s polite, confident, and handsome, so the family welcomes him into their lives and ask him to stay a while.

In no time at all, David has become a great comfort to the mom, Laura (Sheila Kelley) and a drinking buddy of the dad, Spencer (Leland Orser). The youngest son, Luke (Brendan Meyer), who has been dealing with bullies at school, also takes a liking to David when he follows the bullies to a bar, tricks them into fighting him, then thoroughly demolishes them. Even the sullen middle child, Anna (Maika Monroe, from It Follows and something else) starts to like David after he goes to a party with her and is totally the coolest person there; smoking, drinking, and sleeping with her friend from work.

All good things must come to an end, however, and eventually Anna decides to look David up by calling his old base. This triggers an alert that goes all the way to Lance Reddick, who puts together a team of badasses to go bring David down. I’m sure Lance Reddick’s character has a name, but I didn’t hear what it was. Anyway, it turns out that David was part of some Captain America bullshit and, worst of all, is programmed to take down anyone who could compromise him or his mission. So that’s when the killing really starts.

The Guest doesn’t try to hide the fact that David is a creep, he’s always shown as a bad dude. When he beats those kids up at the bar, it’s violent and nasty – even though he fights like a movie character, the consequences feel more real than most action movies. The film loses that in the last act, as David starts to become more of a terminator than just a tough, well-trained guy, but that’s fun too. In fact, the showdown at the prom is, though not particularly original, one of the better shootout scenes I’ve seen in a while that didn’t have John Wick in it.

Also, this movie has an amazingly amusing ending. Luke and Anna are fun kids to root for, and I loved how simplistic and old fashioned the dad was, too; I swear half his lines were “I need a drink.” Even though I really wouldn’t call this a horror movie, it definitely has the twisted sensibilities of that genre. It’s far from the film I was expecting it to be, but The Guest was still maybe the most fun hour and a half I watched this Shocktober. A good note to go out on before I do what I’ve got to do next… See you Monday.