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Film / The Guest

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He's here to help...

David: I do not wanna hear anything further about this young man being harassed, do we understand each other?
Principal Alston: I believe we do, Mister... who are you?!
David: I'm a friend of the family.

The Guest is a 2014 Thriller film directed by Adam Wingard (You're Next, V/H/S). The story consists of the Peterson family who are visited by a mysterious stranger, "David" (Dan Stevens), who claims to be a comrade of their deceased son, Caleb. Polite and charming, he makes himself comfortable in the family.

But is he who he claims to be?

The film has the following tropes:

  • Affably Evil: "David" is polite, charming and suave but seems to be a bit off. Turns out to be totally apeshit. Still retains his politeness.
  • The Alcoholic: Mr. Peterson is a somewhat downplayed version: it's not really drawn attention to, but he's drinking an alcoholic beverage in almost every scene he's in.
  • Always Chaotic Evil/Too Dumb to Live: The jocks. A random stranger offered them a "lady" drink. They decide to blow it out of proportions and throw the drink in his face. They are teenagers. In a seedy bar. Even removing David from the equation, they are still antagonizing unknown person with unknown motives toward them. And then decide to instantly go for punch-out.
  • Ambiguously Gay: Luke Peterson. He seems to really admire and look up to the handsome and charming David and constantly defends him despite suspicions mounting on him, even flat-out refusing to believe his own sister when she tells him that David killed their parents and has gone on a rampage. This is further implied in a deleted scene where his father asks him if he has a date for the Halloween dance and he responds that he's not going because he doesn't like any of the girls in his school. His bullies also constantly call him homophobic slurs, although that could just be them being malicious just for the sake of it.
    • On top of all that, when Luke is once again bullied by the thugs David laid out, the homophobic slurs are used and he finally snaps, cracking a yard stick across the jaw of his bully. He's later facing expulsion until David tells the principal that since Luke is, in fact, gay, he's been the ongoing victim of a hate crime which the school didn't protect him from, and is now expelling him for protecting himself. He suggests the family are ready to sue so the principal backs down and offers a month of detention (and because he's a dolt, it's decorating for the Halloween dance...). It's not clear if David is just lying, or knows/believes Luke to be gay but it could be taken as confirmation he is. Luke isn't present for the conversation and it's not clear if he's made aware what was said.
  • And I Must Scream: Implied in Major Carver saying that David has been "programmed" to kill anyone he suspects knows his true identity, and couldn't stop even if he wanted to. Although in this case, he doesn't, as stated below.
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  • Anyone Can Die: Mr. and Mrs. Peterson, Craig, Kristen and Major Carver all bite it before the movie is over.
  • Allegory: David can be seen as an examination of the dehumanizing effect war has on young men, some of whom come back physically whole but seriously damaged on the inside.
    • After first meeting him, Spencer asks his wife, "What if [David] has 'the PTSD?'"
  • Apologetic Attacker: "David" regrets killing Mr and Mrs. Peterson, apologizing before murdering them both, since he was supposed to protect them.
  • Asshole Victim: The bullies David beats down have earned their ass kicking by the time it arrives. Later when another bully goes after Luke, despite still nursing his wounds from the earlier bar fight, he gets a punch to the face and then measuring stick broke across it for good measure from Luke. Both instances are immensely satisfying to watch.
  • Awesome Mc Coolname: Major Richard Carver.
  • Ax-Crazy: "David" turns out to be this due to a laboratory experiment on him by the US Army turning him and some others including Caleb into super soldiers.
  • Badass Abnormal: There are hints David has been altered or augmented in some fashion due to the program he was place into. He's much stronger than he looks, despite being in good shape, and very difficult to kill.
  • Ballistic Discount: David arranges to buy some pistols from two illicit arms dealers, then calmly announces that he's going to kill them and take their entire stock. One draws a revolver only to be instantly disarmed and shot with his own weapon. Turns out there's only one bullet in the chamber, perhaps as insurance against this trope. The other criminal however decides to run rather than fight. David calmly gets another round from the arms stash and kills him with a single bullet at long range.
  • Bar Brawl: Not exactly fair one, with an ex-military Super Soldier facing 4 drunk teenagers.
  • Be Careful What You Wish For: Discussed. When Spencer arrives home visibly shaken and pours himself a sizable drink, he informs his wife that he's gotten that promotion. Due to the fact his new young boss died in an apparent suicide pact with his wife and morbidly retorts "Be careful what you wish for" while he drinks.
  • Big Brother Instinct/Big Brother Substitute: Shown by David toward members of the Peterson family, to a really unhealthy degree.
  • Black Comedy:
    • This plays as the background music when David guns down Kristen and blows up the diner.
    • David's "grave" in the end, when he's surrounded with crappy Halloween decorations of a graveyard.
  • Brainwashed and Crazy / Broken Ace: David's mental condition has been "programmed" to, if he believes his identity compromised, kill everyone who could possibly know about it. Major Carver states that he couldn't stop himself even if he wanted to (which he clearly doesn't).
  • Bullying a Dragon: One of Luke's bullies pours a drink on David. He ends up kicking ass without so much as breaking a sweat.
  • Burger Fool: Subverted. Anna works in a diner, but only because she's saving up money for college.
  • The Charmer: David is charismatic and charming individual, always polite and soft-spoken. He's also a sociopath capable of turning Anna's reveal about his records being clean and apparently real David being dead into a non-issue and making her own parents trust more a complete stranger than their own daughter with just few smiles and half-truths. And let's not forget how much he achieves throughout the entire film by simply being nice.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • The knife David gave to Luke.
    • The handgun David left next to Major Carver's body.
  • The Coats Are Off: The last standing jock does this during Bar Brawl. It doesn't help him in the slightest.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Almost every fight scene with David has him wiping the floor with this opponents without breaking a sweat.
  • Death by Genre Savviness: The arms dealer. He was apparently aware about the Ballistic Discount and even his own gun carries only a single bullet to prevent further danger. David still shoots him, with his gun, using the only bullet in it.
  • Death by Sex: Kristen's the only character seen having sex on screen (with David). She's one of his victims. On the other hand, it's almost telegraphed Anna and Zeke also had their fun, and yet she's the Final Girl.
  • Deconstructed Trope: Of the Super Soldier, and more specifically Captain America. While David is initially introduced as an all-American soldier and appears charming and good-natured, the film gradually shows his true nature as a ruthless and sociopathic killer programmed to eliminate anyone who suspects his real identity, making him more like something out of Weapon X.
  • Disproportionate Retribution:
    • Starts out as a Discussed Trope when David tells Luke to first stab the bullying Jerk Jocks;
    • ...and later seems to be David's entire shtick, attempting to kill everyone who might have the slightest inkling of who he is and what he's doing.
  • The Dog Bites Back: Before the start of class Luke eventually has had enough from one bully and just straight up punches him in the face. When the bully throws him to the ground and unwisely turns his back on him, declaring "That's right, bitches!" to the class, Luke grabs a yard stick and breaks it across his smug face.
  • Drink-Based Characterization: Invoked by David insulting Luke's bullies by ordering "girly" drinks for them (essentially calling them gay) and averted in the same scene by David ordering a Gargle Blaster loaded with pepper... that he uses as a weapon in the ensuing Bar Brawl by tossing it to a bully's face. David do drinks beer in a few scenes, but like everything else about his friendly persona, it's just part of faking his sanity.
  • Dying Smirk: After Luke stabs David, David pulls a thumbs up and praises him for doing the right thing before dying. Subverted because he ends up surviving.
  • Eating the Eye Candy: Anna falls prey to this when David leaves the shower in just a towel. She's caught off guard due to believing Luke was using the bathroom. Later, when he shows up at the party, carrying without much effort two kegs and beer and flexing half of his body in the process, all the ladies are looking.
  • Empathic Environment: Parodied, if not mocked. Luke learns about his parents death while inside a Halloween maze, with recorded sound of storm and thunders in the background playing.
  • The End... Or Is It?: A man in a firefighter suit emerges from the burning Rec center with a limp and begins staring at Anna and Luke, clearly implying that David survived somehow. However, the film ends before this can be confirmed.
  • Even the Guys Want Him: David is handsome and well-shaped, but also cool, joking, nice (but not soft) and always helpful when you need a mule to transport those kegs. He quickly gains sympathy of the entire crowd at the party, regardless of gender.
  • Exposition: Subverted. Just as Major Carver is about to give one about "Project Aegolius" for the board he's meeting, he's interrupted by his aide with emergency call.
  • The Farmer and the Viper: The Petersons pay a hefty price for taking in David for a few days. David kills two of Anna's closest friends, frames her boyfriend for the murder, and eventually even kills Laura and Spencer leaving Anna and Luke orphans. The finale also has aspects of The Scorpion And The Frog, as David's is "programmed" to kill any loose ends despite how it hurts his own desire to protect the Petersons. Carver points out he will kill the Petersons no matter what, not because he wants to, but because he's compelled to do so.
  • Final Girl: Anna and Luke both make it out alive.
  • Flashed-Badge Hijack:
    Major Carver: Military Police, I'm gonna need your vehicle.
  • Flat Character: The jock bullies have zero characterization apart from just being obnoxious assholes who like to pick on Luke.
  • Genre Shift: Goes from a mystery-thriller, with a touch of horror, to an action film for the last twenty minutes.
  • Genre Throwback: To John Carpenter films of the 1970's and 1980's.
  • Gone Horribly Right: Major Carver mentions that David fit all of the requirements of the "perfect candidate" of the Super Soldier project. Turns out he's a little too efficient at being that during his rampage on the town.
  • Good Pays Better: Reaches almost the point of being an unintentional Aesop of the story. The amount of things David is capable of achieving by just being nice is just amazing.
  • Good People Have Good Sex: Deconstructed, just like numerous other tropes related with the all-American hero archetype. David is having good sex. But the film till this point made it more than clear he's dangerous sociopath and the sex itself comes with a twist about how unhinged he is during it.
  • Graceful Loser: David is actually impressed by Anna and Luke defeating him, going as far to tell Luke he did the right thing and should not feel bad about delivering the killer blow. Sure, he apparently survives, but it's still a rather gracious way to react to being stabbed in the chest.
  • Grievous Bottley Harm: Attempted by one of the bullies on David. David then shows him how it's properly done.
  • Have You Told Anyone Else?: David asks Luke did his sister inform anyone else of her suspicions, Luke rather foolishly informs him his sister would have told Kristen. This means she's as good as dead come the finale.
  • Hero Antagonist: Major Carver tries to save Anna and Luke from "David".
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: David eventually gets stabbed by Luke, using the very knife he gave him as a gift.
  • The Hunter Becomes the Hunted: Anna turns out surprisingly effective at luring David away from her brother, getting him into open and shooting him. If she just knew about Rule #2...
  • Idiot Ball: Luke, without provocation, spills his guts about Anna's suspicions because a) David gets him out of expulsion and b) is his "friend." There was also little need to inform him that not only did he know he was not who he claimed but that he'd guessed he bumped off several people.
  • Improbable Weapon User: David successfully weaponises his drink (albeit arguably chosen for its potential as a weapon).
  • Jerk Jock: The resident school bullies who torment Luke are all jocks. Which means they are allowed to get drunk in the local bar and generally act like assholes with impunity. Until David shows up that is.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Luke endures a lot of messed-up abuse from the school bullies. David humiliates them later with extreme violence.
  • Knife Nut: David.
    David (to Luke): Oh man, your parents' knives suck. (expertly whips out butterfly knife.)
  • Kubrick Stare: David on several occasions.
  • Lampshade Hanging: Major Carver instantly points out how ridiculous the Halloween maze is and how out of place the entire situation is, making the sequence amusing rather than requiring hefty dose of Willing Suspension of Disbelief.
  • Last-Name Basis: As part of the military theme, both David and Major Carver are addressing everyone in a formal way, unless the person in question asks them to stop.
  • Left the Background Music On: Used continuously throughout the film. Most notable example happens when David and Anna return from the party and suddenly start discussing the song which up to this point appeared to be just the soundtrack for the scene.
  • Made of Iron: David doesn't react to pain very much, and when he's shoved at one point in the film, there's a very faint clanking sound. The end implies that after getting shot and stabbed multiple times, he still has the strength to overpower a firefighter, steal his suit and limp out of the building.
  • Majorly Awesome: Major Carver. Being played by Lance Reddick helps.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Aegolius is a name for a specific ill omen, related with owl screech. A rather ironic name for the project, all things considered. Also, David apparently remains active through night, never sleeping, further making it related.
    • Major Carver. Three guesses how he dies.
  • Mood Whiplash: After all the awful things happening till this point, the scene in front of the school principal is pure comedy gold.
  • More Dakka: Carver's men believe in there being no kill like overkill. After assault rifles fail, one pulls out a full machine gun. David also follows this, using an M4 to counterattack after starting with a pistol.
  • Muscles Are Meaningless: Played with. David has a lean and athletic build, but he's implied to be much stronger than he appears. He's able to easily carry two full kegs.
  • Never Gets Drunk: David. He outdrinks the alcoholic Spencer to no ill effect, and can handle a drink that Luke chokes on and David later uses as pepper spray on a bully.
  • Nice to the Waiter: In almost literal sense. Rather than causing him any real troubles, David works around the bar owner and then pays for all damage caused, while providing a fool-proof cover story to keep the bar owner out of trouble.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Craig and his friend selling David guns both get one when David responds to the gun seller saying that he can cut him a deal for all the guns with "No, I'm going to kill you"
    • A subdued and drawn-out one from David when Luke inadvertently reveals David's whole plan.
  • Perky Goth: Judging by her clothes, music choice and her bedroom, Anna can easily qualify as one.
  • Precision F-Strike: The very final line in the film
    Anna: What the fuck?!
  • Private Military Contractors: What KPG appears to be. It's unclear is Major Carver is a military liaison or not, but KPG is definitely not official army.
  • Punch Catch: David stops this way a Jerk Jock trying to pull Grievous Bottley Harm. He then takes the bottle and smash it over the face of his confused opponent.
  • Rasputinian Death: David. He's shot three times, stabbed twice, gets into a car crash. Except he's not dead.
  • Reckless Sidekick: Justified. Luke is one to Anna's more reasonable behavior, but that's because he considers "David" to be his friend due to all the things he done so far. Also, let's not forget he's 15 and has No Social Skills, while Anna is 21 and her life crumbles, rather than improves due to David's actions.
  • Revenge by Proxy: It appears David has a very peculiar way of handling justice.
  • Right for the Wrong Reasons: When Spencer and Laura argue about letting David stay, Spencer points out that he's just back from the war and soldiers can return with PTSD and be dangerous as a result. There's little doubt that David is a broken soldier, but he's dangerous because he was part of a super-soldier program.
  • Secret Secret-Keeper: Inverted. Luke effortlessly checked all the facts and combined different clues to figure out "David" true intentions and plans, sharing the fact with him, as they are "friends". You can literally watch David's smile slowly turning into an angry clenched teeth while he listens to the explanation, realizing how easy it was for a teenager to figure out his identity and tie together multiple murders. Not to mention how due to his conditioning, "David" now has to kill the boy.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Slashed Throat: How David gets rid of the teacher overseeing Luke's detention. And Major Carver, after first slashing open his wrist.
  • Slasher Smile: David. Particularly when he takes the time to toss a pair of grenades into the diner.
  • The Sleepless: Strongly implied with David. We never see him actually sleep, always just sitting on the edge of the bed in the same position.
  • The Sociopath: David clearly exhibits many of the signs of a sociopath: Manipulative tendencies, lack of empathy, an inability to show any real emotion, and he kills people seemingly on impulse. It's later revealed that the latter was "programmed" into his brain.
    David: Never let anyone pick on you, otherwise you'll carry it with you the rest of your life. And those kids at school, they're bigger than you?
    Luke: Yeah?
    David: Then bring a knife to school. If they take it off you and beat you up, you go around their houses at night and burn them down with their families inside. What's the worst they can do?
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: Every time when David does something wrong or threatening, the soundtrack completely doesn't match the situation. The best example would be him killing Kristen, while "Because I Love You" by Steve B plays in the background.
  • The Stoic: To almost ridiculous point, David doesn't show emotions most of the time. Even during sexual intercourse.
  • Super Soldier: David is implied to be this (and Caleb as well), having been a part of a medical experiment overseen by KPG.
  • Verbal Tic: Like, Luke could seriously, like, control himself or something about talking like, I don't know, this.


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