Sometime last year I was in a theater and saw a trailer for a new movie that I thought looked super bad. Trailers are an art, and it can be so easy to make a good movie look bad, or even a bad movie look good. And boy did this trailer look bad to me. I couldn’t really tell what was going on with this movie. I couldn’t figure out the tone of this movie. For most of the trailer I thought maybe it was supposed to be a drama about a soldier coming home to bond with his squad-mate’s family, but I couldn’t figure out why the guy was acting so shifty. I figured the twist was that he was evil, but they weren’t even trying to make it a secret. I remember coming home to my wife and laughing about this ridiculous trailer I saw, then promptly forgot about it.
Then suddenly like every film site I respect starting putting this ridiculous movie that I’d disregarded on their best of the year lists, and I got super confused. Apparently it wasn’t the movie I thought it was, and it was actually really fun. So now that it’s on Netflix, I figured I’d give it a shot, and boy am I glad I did. Right from the beginning I knew what time of movie this was going to be, since it started with a mysterious man running down a dirt road for a moment before the title card that read “the Guest” popped up with a ridiculous orchestra sting. This wasn’t a serious movie. It was super tongue in cheek, and seemed to really revel in it’s crazy 80’s action/thriller pedigree. It seriously felt like a lost John Carpenter 80’s gem, with it’s crazy action and synthy score. This movie rocked.
The movie starts with recently discharged soldier David Collins showing up in a small town (I believe I saw Arizona plates on the cars) looking for the family of a former squad-mate. He shows up at the house of Caleb Peterson, a soldier who died in Afghanistan. He quickly ingratiates himself with the Peterson family by being courteous to the mother Laura, and after finding a picture of her sons squad with him in it, she invites him to stay for the night. He says that their son had a dying wish for him to come tell each family member that he loved them, and do anything to help them, so he’s here to follow through. The father Spencer is being passed over for a promotion at work by a younger man, the dorky son Luke is being bullied at school for being shy and different, and the daughter Anna is drifting through life as a slacker waitress. Pretty much everyone is suspicious of David at first, but he starts to seem like a great guy as he befriends all of them, except Anna, who continues to be sketched out by him.
He picks Luke up from school the next day, and has him point out the kids who are bullying him. They then follow the bullies to a local bar that serves minors, and then he proceeds to beat the absolute crap out of them. He also drinks some cocktail that’s cinnamon schnapps and Tobasco…gross. Then he goes out to a party with Anna where he defends one of her friends from her shitty boyfriend. He also learns about Anna’s secret drug-dealer boyfriend, and that one of their friends sells guns. So David goes off to the middle of nowhere to meet up with the guys who sell guns, and then just straight up shoots them dead and takes their guns. It’s at that point that I began to suspect that this David fellow may not be on the level…
Anna is still suspicious about David, and calls the base that he says he was recuperating in, only to find out that apparently David Collins died. But we see that the Army was told to tell her that, and actually David appears to be involved in some mysterious project. She then finds out that her boyfriend is being implicated in the murder of the dude who sold David the guns, and the guy who stole Spencer’s promotion was found dead. Anna continues to get super suspicious of David as a bunch of dead bodies start showing up in this small town at around the same time this guy the government says is dead came to town. And then a dude called Major Carver shows up at the house with a group of soldiers, because apparently he works for some weird government project, and he’s here to take David who is some sort of escaped experiment.
Then the movie gets freaking insane. David is involved in a crazy firefight with the soldiers, killing them all except Carver. Then he straight up kills Laura, flees in a car, gets in an accident with Spencer and kills him too before running off to take care of the last loose ends. Carver shows up at the restaurant Anna works at and gets her out of their, talking about Davids programming, and they leave right as David shows up, kills Anna’s friend and the rest of the patrons, and then heads to Luke’s school. Luke was in detention making a haunted house when Carver and Anna show up and explain the situation. Then there’s a crazy fight scene in a haunted house where David kills Carver and goes after Anna and Luke. Anna manages to shoot David, and Luke stabs him several times with a butterfly knife David gave him earlier, and David seemingly dies as he tells Luke that there’s no hard feelings. The two of them sit in an ambulance outside, trying to figure out what the hell just happened, when they see a man in a firefighter uniform walk out, clearly David who is somehow alive. Then Anna says “what the fuck?” taking the words out of my mouth, and the movie ends!
This movie was bonkers. The action is crazy, the music is great, and the plot gets insane. The movie kept things super vague, and didn’t explain anything, which let our imaginations run wild. After we find out that David was some sort of medical experiment, an they start referencing a disgraced plastic surgeon David knows, I pretty much assumed that at some point we’d see him get shot and reveal that he’s a goddamn robot or something. And it kept happening. The end of this movie just kept ramping up the craziness to the point where I was pretty much expecting it to become a Terminator sequel. That trailer made me assume that Dan Stevens was putting in a terrible performance as David, but man was that not right. He was so charmingly crazy. And between this movie and It Follows I’m thinking that Maika Monroe is an up-and-coming star who I can assume will be in visually compelling, weirdly awesome movies with great throwback soundtracks. This movie was great, and if you have an affection for 80’s era Carpenter flicks, I think you’ll enjoy this movie.
The Guest was written by Simon Barrett and directed by Adam Wingard.
Categories: Reel Talk