The Terminator franchise is spiraling into endless convoluted sequels and if a series reboot is on the horizon, the creators should look to a 2014 Adam Wingard horror movie for inspiration. The original Terminator film was heavily inspired by the popular slasher movies of the ’80s, and James Cameron made the film equal parts sci-fi/action and horror. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator was a stoic, emotionless killing machine who faces off against Linda Hamilton’s “final girl” in a setup that would fit nicely in a film like Friday the 13th. After Terminator 2: Judgment Day, the following sequels tried to recreate that film’s success, moving further from the scary atmosphere of the original.
While countless films have tried to copy the Terminator formula, there have not been any memorable efforts until 2014’s The Guest. The Guest is a true throwback film that is a melting pot of homages to movies from the ’70s and ’80s. The most obvious comparison to The Guest would be the early films of John Carpenter. The film is shot very similarly to the widescreen format of Halloween, and the science fiction elements feel at home with movies like Escape From New York. However, this mix of sci-fi and horror also makes The Guest a great companion film to the original Terminator.
If The Terminator franchise is looking to reinvent itself, it should look to The Guest’s pure mix of sci-fi and horror, which is something that has been missing from the franchise since the immense popularity of T2. Both The Terminator and The Guest put atmosphere over spectacle and they use their fantastical elements as a framework for visceral thrills. Adam Wingard has an understanding of the original Terminator’s slasher horror movie roots, and he used a lot of the original’s elements in the making of The Guest. Much like Cameron’s film, The Guest is an action-oriented film that is a horror movie at heart.
How The Guest Is Actually The Best Terminator Sequel
Dan Stevens in the guest 2014 movie
There is simplicity on display in The Guest that evokes the spirit of The Terminator, which the rest of the Terminator franchise is missing. David (Dan Stevens) is an icy, emotionless villain who doesn’t let anything get in his way of completing his mission, and when he goes on a rampage during the movie’s climax he transforms into a Terminator-style killing machine. The Guest is shot in a similar matter-of-fact style to The Terminator, which makes the atmosphere and scares more impactful. Wingard engineers scares from an unstoppable force invading a normal town and causing chaos, and The Terminator franchise would benefit from returning to this blunt simplicity.
As The Terminator series moves further from what made the original effective, The Guest movie picked up the slack and delivered a spiritual successor to Cameron’s original film. The Guest used its sci-fi premise to deliver horror-driven thrills, and secretly made the film a more successful Terminator sequel than most of the actual Terminator franchise’s later entries. If The Terminator franchise is due for a reboot, it should take a page from Wingard’s book and bring back the calculated, horror-oriented atmosphere that kicked off the series.