(The gist: No Good Deed is definitely a suspense movie rather than horror; however, it straddles the shared attributes between suspense and horror so well that I am willing to roll it into my horror reviews. With the way it flirted with my reality and authentic fears, the movie scared me, which is the hallmark of success for any horror movie.)
No Good Deed is not a horror movie. It sits firmly within the suspense genre. However, it so successful created fear and unnerved me that I am allowing it to join the ranks of my horror reviews.
No Good Deed sticks to its genre and follows the successful formula of a suspense movie. An escaped convict appears on Terry’s doorstep, asking to use her phone after a car accident. What could possibly go wrong?
Conveniently, suspense and horror share many key elements. In this case, a psychopathic killer. There are also the many, many scenes where my viewing partner and I were screaming “No! Don’t do it!” at the screen, as our heroine made awful, anti-survival decisions.
And, for No Good Deed in particular, there is the fear.
No Good Deed did an excellent job of crafting fear. This was easily done for me because the character of Terry lives in a situation very similar to my own. She is the mother of a preschooler and an infant, as am I, and she is alone with her children at night, as I often have been. I was fully empathizing with her the entire film (and also knowing I would probably make the same stupid decisions she was making).
Colin, the escaped killer, is the central vehicle of fear. He is terrifying in his ruthless past, his violent escape, and the execution of his girlfriend before he appears on Terry’s porch. His calm malignant narcissist (my new favorite term) demeanor is infected by the ticks of mental instability. When he appears on Terry’s porch, you do not know why or what he intends to do, but you know it will not be good. And that successfully creates both the suspense and the fear.
For me, it is the addition of the children that makes the movie work for me on a horror-ish level. Because a threat to my children is one of my own personal horrors. Any movie can chase a big-breasted, poor decision making woman up the stairs or through the woods. That woman can run, can do (and fail at) whatever she wants to survive. With young children in the scenario, the woman is trapped. Even with an opportunity, she cannot flee; she cannot risk her babies.
That situation haunts my nightmares.
Once Colin’s motive is revealed (in a rather ingenious plot twist), the fear is definitely diminished. Not knowing is always more terrifying. Then the movie wraps up in a relatively cliché suspense fashion. The final scene is completely contrived and unnecessary. Any good horror movie would have cut that bit out and probably left a rawer edge.
The story was both formulaic and clever. The acting was quality (I love me some Cookie Lyon!). And, most importantly, it scared me. My viewing partner and I both decided to chat with the lights on for a bit after the feature just to make sure the unnerving feelings dissipated before retiring to our dreams.
For all these reasons, I brand the movie as horror-ish and consider it worthy of watching.