Do you like surprises? Do you like weird shit? The Guest, man, that shit is for you. It’s a hard movie to talk about without spoiling it (but what movie isn’t?). Suffice it to say, it’s a movie built on not knowing, of trusting, and then finding out where that trust takes you.
It’s on the Netflix so you could watch it right now, assuming you subscribe to the service.
I’m gonna push forward and pretend you don’t mind the spoilerization of The Guest. Because it’s pretty awesome. Most of my time watching it was spent standing up asking the empty room, “What is haaappening right now?” Followed by “Oh shiiit! That just happened!”
The plot goes like this: A soldier (played by Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens) appears on the Peterson family’s doorstep, claiming to be a close friend of their son who died in action. The family welcomes him, slowly opening not just their home but their hearts. But is the soldier who he says he is?
The movie’s tone continually and fluidly changes, as do the viewers opinion of the characters on screen. I kept wondering who I was rooting for. At first you might hesitantly trust Stevens, even if there does seem to be something seriously off about him. Quickly the trust dissolves into horror, changing almost in tandem with the tone of the film.
How can you begin with something that feels like an indie drama and ends like a sequel to Halloween? No, that’s not fair. It’s not like a Halloween sequel, it’s good enough to contend with the original.
But here is also where I want to pause. Because there’s something about this movie made me feel a little uncomfortable. In fact I had to stop writing this piece so I could collect my thoughts. Being thoughtful. So rare. So weird.
Monsters in movies often tie themselves into topical fears. Like Invasion of the Body Snatchers, which is a classic cold war era scare-fest. Here, in The Guest, the monster is a soldier returned from war. True, it’s hinted at that he’s really a “Jacob’s Ladder” type deal, you know, reprogrammed for mindless violence by the military industrial complex. He’s an unstoppable super-soldier. He bares a certain resemblance, actually, to another popular super-soldier-war-veteran… but the fact remains that one of Amuuurica’s Vets is painted as a villain, and mainly because he is a vet.
At my job there are several ex-military types, who vary across the spectrum of ultra-friendly to complete assholes, but I’ll say this: they are human beings. One of my coworkers, a Navy Master Chief, did admit to me that some of his friends came away from conflicts changed. “It’s real bro,” he said, “Shit’s sad.”
I Just wish there was a moment where the movie touched on the fact that the titular soldier is in fact just person and not just a boogeyman–OR made explicit that the character is first and foremost a boogeyman and tangentially a US Veteran. Still, I think that this movie is the best new scary movie I’ve seen in a while, partly because the scares were such a surprise. Also: best last line in a movie since Casablanca.