Brought to you by the primary, and one of the associated, minds and genius behind Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, and Dollhouse, this is easily the most original, cynical, and fun horror film I’ve seen in years. It is not without its flaws, which I’ll get to, but it has just about everything to satisfy genre lovers… and a few bits to appease their reluctant movie partners as well.
From the start, there are two story lines going on. You may or may not get ahead of the intent and intersection or even the ending (though it really can go in almost any direction at the end) but that won’t diminish the fun that is about to ensue. In fact, I think they could have easily re-titled the movie: All Your Questions Answered, except it wouldn’ t have carried near the weight of its current moniker.
Driving the story is a wonderful cast of familiar names and some names that were about to be familiar when it was to originally release. From the Whedonverse: Acker, Kranz, and Lenk. Bringing their own special brand of understated gravitas: Whitford and Jenkins. And then there are two actors who actually could have been noticed fact in this film if it hadn’t been delayed in release. First, we have Chris Hemsworth in his just-buffing-up days for Thor in the film. Second, we have Jesse Williams before his breakout on Grey’s Anatomy. With these chops the production takes on a confidence and a balance that most slasher films can’t equal.
As I mentioned, I did have a couple issues with the film. One out of its control, the other may or may not have been, but it still weakened the final result. The first was that the release of this movie was infamously delayed a couple times. The delays, chatter, and desire around this movie caused an increased hype for those of us who followed it. In the end, it couldn’t possibly live up to expectation on first viewing; nothing could have. So I had to readjust my filters a little to give it a fair chance. The truth is, if this hadn’t been a Goddard/Whedon movie and didn’t have the attendant hype, it probably would have sent a major quake through the horror and film industry the way Scream or American Werewolf in London did years ago.
The other main issue I have is that it needed about 15 more minutes of film in order to allow us to bond more to the various characters. With two very different, if related, stories going on, the impact of the plot points are somewhat blunted because we haven’t really invested enough in some of the people. I don’t know if this was due to forced cuts for time and other issues, or if Goddard really didn’t notice the lack when he was assembling the final edit. I’m hoping there is a longer version coming on DVD that will fill this gap.
Beyond all of the above, and so much more that I refuse to spoil for folks, what sets this movie truly apart is that it sets up an infinite mirror of self-reflection for the viewer that is as uncomfortable as the acts on screen. This isn’t just an amusement park horror ride, you are both encouraged, and a bit manipulated, into recognizing your own drives and desires that got you into the theater in the first place. It is exhilarating and uncomfortable… in a good way.
Despite rising ticket prices, this is a movie worth supporting… especially if you are as tired of the studio massaged, predictable tripe that has been coming out lately. You want to see more original fare? Support it! If you have any love of the horror genre, this is a film that needs an audience so that the message within it and from the public can get heard: we deserve better (and, yeah, this is a many layered message as well)!