This well-crafted and ingenious essay in – and on – the slasher movie falters at the end by delivering a derivative twist that prompts an ‘is that all there is?’ let-down at precisely the point the movie ought to be going into overdrive.
It opens with a starkly archetypal set-up that evokes found footage as well as a run of contemporary slasher-torture pictures (The Hills Run Red, Malevolent, etc) as a masked dominatrix (Lisa Ovies) readies herself to torture caged murderer on camera, only for the murderer to escape and impale her before taking her mask … only to reveal that this is a gruesome comic book story being drawn by Emily (Ellen MacNevin), a high school outsider who is riffing on her own life. The film cuts between the comic book/slasher movie – in Sin City-ish monochrome shadows with bloody red highlights – and Emily’s miserable life, with the two strands colliding as the murderer – identified with Emily’s father, who killed her brother – seems to show up to kill again, offing a bunch of nasty teens who have been giving Emily a hard time. Late in the day, it is revealed that Emily’s reality, as shown in the film, is as subjective as her comic book wish-fulfilment fantasy, setting up a what-really-happened montage – though there’s still a gap between the comic book killing spree, in which characters based on a teacher or a cop who are mean to Emily get gruesomely offed in fantasy, and the teen slashings, which leave real dead bodies lying about.
Quite a bit of time is spent on a party Emily pointedly doesn’t go to – where her wavery best friend (Taylor Russell) gets drunk and is nearly raped by the horny host Frank (Rustin Gresiuk) and the notionally sensitive Jason (Steve Richmond) finds out his horrid girlfriend Theresa (Courtney Page Theroux) filmed herself shoving Emily’s head in the toilet and dumps her. This sets up Jason’s visit to Emily’s traditionally isolated home, where he shows how shallow he actually is by moving from consoling the girl – they were childhood best friends – to trying to have sex with her, and also serves as a reason for the other victims, including very guilty Theresa and mostly innocent Carrie, to show up to be chased and killed (Jason gets stabbed in the crotch, of course). However, because Emily isn’t there, the party scenes aren’t filtered through her head the way the rest of the film is – and the fact that they’re routine teen movie stuff further makes them feel like padding or a convenience.
Screenwriter Kevin Mosley and director Jeffrey Scott Lando have been around since Savage Island (2004); Lando has done his time with the likes of Insecticidal, Decoys 2, Goblin, Haunted High (aka Ghostquake) and Roboshark. Both clearly have a lot of enthusiasm for genre, and here try to kick it up a notch to make something classier and more thought-through than a regular slasher – the number of plays on the meaning of the title is impressive – but it’s still a shame that, in the end, we’ve heard the story before. MacNevin, who looks like the kind of Spacek cadet weirdoes who featured in 1970s mad girl movies, is excellent, and the rest of the cast play well in the ironised mock-slasher sequences, especially Sage Brocklebank as the slick-haired dimwit deputy.