On 12th August 2015, seven days before my father died, I was sitting in my parent’s kitchen watching The Guest on Netflix. This might sound like a weird, even immoral choice: when your dad is literally on his deathbed, who boots up their laptop to catch the latest genre flick? But the reality was that by this point the cancer had sapped him of all his strength, and after 45 minutes of conversation he needed to sleep for an hour. Mum was at work, dad and I were home together, and I needed to stop myself from going insane whilst he rested.
Cinema has always been a special kind of therapy for me, and there was something about The Guest which uniquely served this purpose: with its retro-80s aesthetic and knowing nods to Halloween and The Terminator, it was the psychic comfort food I needed at that moment.
Of course, it was partly because those films it referenced had been introduced to me by my father. My parents were always cool with letting me dive into grown-up movies from a young age, from the gru of John Carpenter’s The Thing through to Arnie’s endless quips in Predator. Somewhere mum has a photo of me blowing the candles out on my 11th birthday cake, a xenomorph egg complete with emerging facehugger. So watching The Guest whilst dad slept in the next room felt like a way to connect with him, even as he slipped away.
It was broader than that, though. Just as The Guest draws on those classic movies to bridge the gap between past and present, so it served as a conduit between my own childhood and the painful present. Plugging those headphones in and letting the synthwaves crash over me was escapism, but also catharsis and a sense of continuity.
I never told dad any this – we didn’t have the time – but in the years since he died The Guest has remained important and intensely personal to me, a cinematic talisman that continues to sooth and strengthen. It reminds me of my father, yes: but just as with the The Guest‘s filmic heritage I too want to remember where I’ve come from – whom I’ve come from – and to move forward, making something new.