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By Alwyn Dale
July 21, 2015
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By Alwyn Dale
July 21, 2015
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Stranger danger is drilled into us as children, and for some it never goes away. Perhaps pop culture is to blame, being filled with mysterious visitors changing people’s lives forever. Who are they and why can't we stop telling stories about them?

Perhaps one of the reason is that they make a great tool for storytellers. Often these visitors are used thematically by writers to highlight a problem in the social makeup of the place they arrive in by exploiting or solving it. Whether the fallout of the visit is a good change or something horrific, it's always a killer way to build a story.

To celebrate the release of Dan Steven's thriller, The Guest, we have five double passes to give away, plus we take a look at five other cult films, that would bring something special to your front door via the big screen.

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The Guest

First, and most simply titled, we have The Guest. It tells the story of David, a polite and charming Afghanistan veteran who appears on the Peterson family’s doorstep, claiming to be a comrade of their dead son, Caleb. This film has taken a while to reach us in this part of the world, and since the last collaboration from writer Simon Barrett and director Adam Wingard was the stunning home-invasion film You’re Next — the wait has felt especially long. It's been worth it.

Moving from home invasion to hospitality didn’t deny Barrett and Wingard the opportunity to flex their horror-cinema muscles, because there is plenty here to thrill. Downton Abbey’s Dan Stevens is a magnetic screen presence as David. Watching him worm his way into the Peterson’s lives is both entertainingly ominous and pays off handsomely in the gripping second half of the film. The Guest is a well-constructed thriller that cements Barrett and Wingard as a film making partnership to watch.

The Guest is in cinemas nationally on July 23rd.

To enter in the draw, simply email the below with subject line: THE GUEST. The winner will be drawn on Friday, 24 July 2015.

Auckland: [email protected]

Wellington: [email protected]  

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A Fistful of Dollars

Clint Eastwood first took his signature role as the “Man with No Name” in this film by Sergio Leone, and it provides us with perhaps cinema’s most iconic drifter. It's a classic tale of a lone gunman playing two feuding families off against each other, motivated by the titular objective: A Fistful of Dollars. Eastwood’s performance is all scowls and growls, a much grittier type of western hero than was common at the time, one that would go on to pop culture immortality in two sequels: For a Few Dollars More and The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

Interestingly, the story and characters for A Fistful were cribbed almost wholesale from Akira Kurosawa’s samurai film, Yojimbo, which is also an absolute classic.

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Zatoichi

When speaking of mysterious strangers and Japanese cinema, Zatoichi the blind swordsman is a standout. The star of 29 films since 1962, he's been in more movies than James Bond (23 films) and is only narrowly beaten by his fellow country-lizard, Godzilla (30 films). The plots usually involve Zatoichi wandering from town to town playing the role of a blind masseuse and gambler, before inevitably become embroiled in a conflict requiring the sword hidden in his cane. Is he genuinely blind, or an accomplished con man? Either way swordsmanship is second to none and the baddies get what they deserve.

If you're looking for somewhere in the series to start, veteran Japanese film maker Takeshi Kitano directed and starred in an award-winning remake in 2003, which even has a nifty dance sequence to top it off.

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Mad Max 2: the Road Warrior

When it comes to drifters from the southern hemisphere, you can't beat "Mad" Max Rockatansky. The leather-clad, gas guzzling icon is enjoying a new lease of life as audiences and critics rave about this year's Mad Max: Fury Road. It's the perfect time to take a look at one of the earlier entries in director George Miller's series.

For this roundup, the second film is what we're after. It has Max (plus dog and vehicle) in full drifter mode, hounded by desert ruffians and running into a small settlement who decide to take a chance on him. Almost the moment they open their doors for Max, the awesomely named Lord Humungus and his cronies lay siege to them with a fleet of goofy vehicles. What follows is a no-holds-barred barrage of vehicular mayhem and a bold vision that would come to define the post apocalyptic aesthetic. It's also a lot of fun.

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E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

Not all stories about mysterious strangers have to be grim and violent, as the heartwarming relationship between E.T. and young Elliot shows. In fact director Steven Spielberg felt some scenes were a little too threatening, so for the film's 20th anniversary release in 2002 a number of shots of police officers were infamously digitally altered to replace their guns with walkie talkies... and then changed his mind.

Still, E.T. couldn't be a more charming film and t goes to show that some strangers are worth getting to know, even if they are completely alien.

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Mary Poppins

Since Saving Mr. Banks dramatised the making of this 1964 film, there has been a renewed interest in the world's most famous and mysterious nanny. Coming and going as the wind changes and possessing a staggering variety of seemingly magical powers, Mary Poppins is a well-mannered mystery, wrapped in a delightful enigma. Seriously, is she a Time Lord, like the Doctor?

In any case, you have to agree that there's simply no better guest. Sorry boys, you can keep your guns, swords and cars. Mary Poppins the mysterious visitor you want on your doorstep, no question.

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Published on July 21, 2015 by Alwyn Dale

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