13 Halloween movies for people who don’t like horror

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Brendan Meyer and Dan Stevens in The Guest (2014), screenshot courtesy of Picturehouse

2. The Guest (2013)

One day, a soldier arrives at the home of Spencer and Laura Petersen. He says his name is David Collins and he served in Afghanistan with their son, Caleb, whose death they are mourning. He’s disarmingly polite, calling them “sir” and “ma’am” and saying all the right things, so they invite him to stay for a while. What happens next… well, you have to see for yourself. The Guest is the kind of movie best watched knowing as little as possible, not because the plot is especially clever or unpredictable but because it’s such a pleasure to experience.

Like in their previous feature, the slasher flick You’re Next, director Adam Wingard and writer Simon Barrett spike the film with a devilish, deadpan sense of humor, simultaneously celebrating and parodying ‘70s horror. John Carpenter’s influence is palpable in the Halloween imagery (lots of jack-o’-lanterns, warm colors) and feverish electronic soundtrack, which imbue even the most subdued scenes with a sinister mood that clashes with the dreary rural setting.

The Guest has subtler tricks up its sleeve as well. In a radical departure from genre tradition, it encourages us to sympathize with the characters, treating them as complex, reasonable human beings instead of caricatures. And as David, Dan Stevens does a lot while seeming to do nothing, his glinting eyes contradicting his unflappable demeanor, exuding charisma without showboating. He’s mesmerizing.

Similar movies: Carrie (1976), 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)