The Daily Stream: The Guest Is The Perfect Halloween Watch

(Welcome to The Daily Stream, an ongoing series in which the /Film team shares what they've been watching, why it's worth checking out, and where you can stream it.)

The MovieThe Guest

Where You Can Stream It: Netflix

The Pitch: Writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard reteamed after their 2011 home invasion horror "You're Next" to create "The Guest," an '80s flavored thriller with a sweet synth soundtrack and some serious Halloween vibes. 

"The Guest" stars "Downton Abbey" heartthrob Dan Stevens as David Collins, a young soldier who shows up on the doorstep of the Peterson family, claiming to have served with their son who was killed in action. Parents Spencer (Leland Orser) and Laura (Sheila Kelley) both welcome David into the family with open arms, but their 20-year-old daughter, Anna (Maika Monroe from "It Follows"), isn't so sure. David helps teenage brother Luke (Brendan Meyer) with bullies, pumpkin carving, and his self-confidence, but Anna still thinks that the sweet super-soldier isn't all that he says he is. 

As Anna discovers more and more about David's past, the bodies start piling up and the Halloween dance becomes the least of her worries. Lance Reddick stars as the military agent in charge of hunting David down before it's too late, but Halloween in this town ends up being one bloody holiday. 

Why It's Essential Viewing

"The Guest" is about to get a gorgeous 4K Blu-ray release, but Netflix also just added it to the streaming platform, just in time for Halloween! I make it a tradition to watch "The Guest" every year in October, because it's the perfect movie to get you in the mood for spooky season. It wears its influences proudly on its sleeve, paying homage to the greats while still being its own thing. The music is reminiscent of Carpenter, the cinematography blending the work of De Palma, Tarantino, and more. It's a creepy, sexy, sleek thriller that oozes style while maintaining a sense of fun that keeps it from being too much of a bummer. 

There's also loads of Halloween imagery, from David helping Luke to carve his jack-o-lantern to the many Halloween decorations that seem to be everywhere. The Petersons have pumpkins and fall leaves everywhere in their home, and they're all over the high school Luke attends. Even the diner where Anna works has Halloween decorations hanging up, so it's impossible to forget exactly what time of year "The Guest" takes place. A big chunk of the third act takes place in a homemade haunted house in the school gym, so it's permanently cemented its place in the Halloween cinema canon.

The Petersons are the Perfect Popcorn Family

One thing that "The Guest" hinges on is the audience's willingness to care about the Peterson family enough to be concerned about David. After all, David is ridiculously good-looking, charming, and he's a total badass kill guy. It's almost impossible not to root for him, but the movie helps us root for the family he's infiltrated. By pitting the audience's desire to see David do some damage and their desire to see the Petersons stay safe against one another, the movie maintains tension from start to finish. 

The Petersons feel like the average all-American family. They're not rich, but clearly comfortable. Father Spencer misses having another adult man in the house after the death of his son Caleb, and he starts treating David as a surrogate. They drink beer together and watch sports, and when his wife Laura questions some of David's odder behavior, he explains it away with "maybe he's got the PTSD." Total Dad move, through and through. Laura sometimes cries in the laundry room when she thinks about her dead son, but she's also doing her best to get Luke through high school and keep Anna from getting into trouble and dating drug dealers. Anna and Luke are each dealing with the loss of their brother in different ways, but both are clearly struggling. 

David seems like the perfect fix for this slightly broken family, filling in the cracks left behind by the death of Caleb. He helps Luke with his homework and helps him dodge detention. He does chores around the house, helps with laundry, and even drives Anna home after she gets high at a party. So why does it feel like there's something sinister lurking beneath all of that smolder?

Stevens is Scary Sexy

Stevens became famous for acting in stodgy period romances on the BBC, but he's in totally different form in "The Guest." He skirts the line between creepy and cool, his lingering stares leaning closer to stalker territory as the movie progresses. Even though she doesn't trust him, Anna develops a bit of a crush on him (girl, same), and even makes him a mix CD of her favorite music. David knows how to turn on the charm, but the filmmakers regularly remind us that he's not as sweet as he seems. He manages to keep his murderous tendencies on the down-low for awhile, but when Anna overhears a phone call where he's asking for fingers, her crush becomes concern. 

Everyone puts in a great performance, but Stevens anchors every single scene with a quiet intensity. It feels like he's constantly tensed and ready to strike, like an animal that's been cornered but won't go down without a fight. By the time he kills a couple of local criminals (played by Joel David Moore and Ethan Embry, who should both be in everything), we know that this story can't have a happy ending. 

"The Guest" becomes a game of cat-and-mouse that switches players multiple times, and revealing any more than that would do it a disservice. This sexy, stylish flick is a lean thriller that deserves a massive cult following. Honestly, the soundtrack does too. 

The Ultimate Spooky Synthwave Soundtrack

Not only is "The Guest" a great Halloween movie that's scary, sexy, and a lot of fun, but the soundtrack absolutely slaps. If you've never dabbled in the genre of synthwave before, this is a perfect primer. Synthwave is an electronic music subgenre based on the music of action, sci-fi, and horror movie soundtracks from the 1980s. Synthwave seeks to emulate the music of pioneers like John Carpenter and Tangerine Dream, and it's the perfect fit for the 80s-themed imagery of "The Guest." (If it sounds kind of familiar, synthwave first gained mainstream popularity with the "Drive" soundtrack in 2011.)

The soundtrack features songs by Love and Rockets, Mike Simonetti, Stevie B, Clan of Xymox, and more. It's full of thumping beats and sinister sounds, and makes the perfect soundtrack for your Devil's Night plans, Halloween party, or even just going to the gym.