Greetings, all. Ambush Bug here. Happy Birthday to AICN HORROR which celebrates its fifth year in October! Always hoping to pass on new and exciting films for all of you ravenous readers, I have once again compiled a list counting down to my favorite horror film released since last October and covered in this here AICN HORROR: ZOMBIES & SHARKS column. Some of these films might be new to you since there isn’t a lot of horror in theaters these days that aren’t toothless remakes or watered down sequels. The theater just doesn’t seem to be the place where the horror is at these days, I’m sad to say. Some of these films have only seen the light of day on Video On Demand or simply go straight to DVD/BluRay or digital download.
As far as how I compiled this list? Well, I simply looked over my AICN HORROR columns over the last year since October 1st, 2013 (which happens to be the birthday of this little column five years ago!) and worked and reworked a list until I had 31. No real method to my special brand of madness. We’ll be counting down every day until Halloween to my favorite horror film of the year. I’ll also provide a second film suggestion at the end of each post that is worth noting or missed being on the list by a little bit for those who can’t get enough horror.
So let’s get to it! Chime in after the article and let me know how you liked the film I chose, how on the nose or mind-numbingly wrong I am, and most importantly, come up with your own list…let’s go!
#9: THE GUEST!
Below is my review of THE GUEST from September!
THE GUEST (2014)Directed by Adam Wingard
Written by Simon Barrett
Starring Dan Stevens, Sheila Kelley, Maika Monroe, Sheila Kelley, Leland Orser, Lance Reddick, Tabatha Shaun, Chase Williamson, Joel David Moore, Alex Knight, Ethan Embry, AJ Bowen
Find out more about this film here and on Facebook here!
Reviewed by Ambush Bug
Warning; I’m going to use the word “cool” a million and one times in this review. And while I do own a thesaurus and try by hardest to use it as often as I can, there’s one word that I keep returning to when I think of THE GUEST and that’s “cool.”
To call THE GUEST a horror film would not really be accurate. While THE GUEST certainly has horrific elements and a sense of mystery, it really does feel more like a mission statement from (up to now) horror director Adam Wingard and (up to now) writer Simon Barrett to let everyone know that this is a writer/director team worth paying attention to. While I liked last year’s YOU’RE NEXT quite a bit, I feel like it was a fun sort of rollercoaster ride, but looking back on it, the film felt rather uneven—as if it didn’t know what kind of film it really wanted to be. THE GUEST is a much more confident film. It’s its own monster and comfortable being that, which makes it a much more entertaining film in the end.
The story begins with an enigmatic guest who calls himself David (played by DOWNTON ABBEY heartthrob Dan Stevens) arriving at the modest Peterson home. Identifying himself as serving with their deceased son in the war, the family invites the stranger into their home and while David is charming as all get out, soon we see that he’s not the peachy-keen nice guy he wants them to believe. I don’t want to reveal anything else other than the fact that this is a film that narratively snowballs to gargantuan proportions by the end of the movie, swelling to sizes and proportions I haven’t seen in a movie since the early days of Carpenter and Cameron; two directors that this film owes a lot to.
The highlight of the film is watching Dan Stevens charm his way in and out of every sticky situation he faces. In this movie, Stevens is the always the coolest guy in the room and while later in the film, cracks in the cool armor begin to show, he maintains that level of awesome that will make this film THE film people refer to when Stevens becomes a big star. Whether he is fighting in a bar, shooting someone in the face, or just carving a jack o’ lantern, Stevens commands every scene comfortably and confidently in this star-making role.
But it would be pretty boring if Stevens just sat there and did nothing but look cool for the duration of the movie. That’s where the unpredictable and downright brilliant story by Simon Barrett comes in. Unfolding like a typical action movie, Barrett channels films like THE TERMINATOR, LITTLE NIKITA, UNCLE BUCK, NOWHERE TO RUN, THE WRAITH, and tons of 80’s simple but awesome action films and funnels it through Adam Wingard’s eyeball (which as you all know from watching V/H/S/2 is a camera) who imbues it with John Carpenter-esque music beats and a heavy dose of the electro-magic that permeated another retro-cool film DRIVE.
By the end of this film, the action, dialog, and story has escalated to such a level of ridiculousness that I should have checked out of THE GUEST, but since everything leading up to it was so…cool, I didn’t give a shit. In the end, there are bullets, fire, kicks, mist, knives, blood, punches, music, and pulse-pounding action. All of it was stuff I’ve seen in other films before, but this particular amalgamation of it all felt so original that I couldn’t help but just sit back and quit trying to remember what movie this part reminded me of and just soak in the coolness. From it’s awesome electro-emo soundtrack to the fantastic performances by the entire cast (especially the fantastic Maika Monroe who is going to be overshadowed by Stevens here, but should garner equal praise in a fair and true world), THE GUEST is a film that will make you stand up and cheer by the end of it.
And while I don’t think a sequel explaining things going on leading up to this film and continuing after it is necessary, I’d love to see one. The ambiguity of THE GUEST, though, is part of its charm and I kind of hope this film just remains a little gem of a film and stays like that while everyone involved moves on to bigger things as a result of it. No explanation is necessary here. THE GUEST doesn’t try to explain itself. It simply is. And what it is—is cool!
Worth Noting: TORMENT!Another tale about an uninvited house visitor is TORMENT which while it is almost too much like THE STRANGERS, it still possesses some very effective elements of terror. It also stars Katherine Isabelle who is turning into one of the most talented and high profile scream queens out there. This one took me by surprise and almost made the countdown if not for its many similarities with THE STRANGERS, but since it looks like it will still be a while before a sequel to that film comes out, this is the next best thing.
Check out my full review of the film here and you can check it out here on Amazon and on Netflix here!
#30: STALLED (worth noting: CHRYSALIS)!
#29: RIGOR MORTIS (worth noting: I AM A GHOST)!
#28: GHOST TEAM ONE (worth noting: HYSTERICAL PSYCHO!
#27: THANATOMORPHOSE (worth noting: CONTRACTED)!
#26: LIFE AFTER BETH (worth noting: EVIL FEED)!
#25: AT THE DEVIL’S DOOR (worth noting: THE DEVIL’S MUSIC) !
#24: CHIMERES (worth noting: THE RETURNED) !
#23: AFFLICTED (worth noting: DEAD WEIGHT) !
#22: TUSK (worth noting: BENEATH) !
#21: FOUND (worth noting: RABID LOVE) !
#20: DEVOURED (worth noting: CRAVE) !
#19: DELIVERY: THE BEAST WITHIN (worth noting: THE HUNTED) !
#18: THE MACHINE (worth noting: BLOOD GLACIER) !
#17: GRAND PIANO (worth noting: OPEN GRAVE) !
#16: WILLOW CREEK (worth noting: WOLF CREEK 2) !
#15: ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE (worth noting: THE SEASONING HOUSE) !
#14: THE SACRAMENT (worth noting: HOLY GHOST PEOPLE) !
#13: CRAWL OR DIE (worth noting: BENEATH) !
#12: PIECES OF TALENT (worth noting: EVIL IN THE TIME OF HEROES) !
#11: PLUS ONE (worth noting: THE DEMON’S ROOK) !
#10: CHEAP THRILLS (worth noting: THE POISONING) !
See ya tomorrow, folks, as I count down the best of the best covered in AICN HORROR since October 1st, 2013!
Ambush Bug is Mark L. Miller, original @$$Hole/wordslinger/writer of wrongs/reviewer/interviewer/editor of AICN COMICS for over 13 years & AICN HORROR for 4. Follow Ambush Bug on the Twitters @Mark_L_Miller.
Be sure to tell your comic shop to order his new comic PIROUETTE (out now!) from Black Mask Studios!