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Simon Read [Celluloid 04.29.19] horror comedy

One has to admire a film with the guts to contain a major spoiler within its own title, but the first question here really, is, how does this film hold up when compared to Cabin in the Woods? The answer, which really comes as no surprise, is that You Might Be The Killer feels like something of a pale imitation - utilising a similar meta sensibility and comic self-awareness, but without the same wit and flow of Drew Goddard and Josh Whedon’s film, which remains one of the most entertaining examples of itself from the last ten years.

It doesn’t help that we have Fran Kranz and Alyson Hannigan in the lead roles, immediately putting one in mind of both ‘Cabin...’ and ‘Buffy’ (and therefore Whedon), and while both actors are perfectly suited to their roles, they are limited by fairly humdrum material and a scattershot approach to narrative. Director/co-writer Brett Simmons’ approach here is functional enough, but the film often feels uneven, and the screenplay in need of another draft.

Kranz plays Sam, the head counselor of a summer camp for kids. The film opens with Sam desperately fleeing a masked killer on the loose, as he calls his best friend Chuck (Hannigan), who’s working the late-shift at her comic book store. Chuck is an expert in horror movies, and Sam explains the situation and asks for advice. The counselors are being picked off one-by-one by a psychotic murderer, he says. “Well, that sometimes happens,” replies Chuck. The film is full of little winks to horror fans, throwing in references to ‘70s and ‘80s slasher flicks at every opportunity.

The film is fun, and funny; there are quite a few laughs, but it never quite transcends the material to become more than the sum of its parts. Action is frequently interrupted by sarcastic superimposed graphics updating us on the body-count, ‘Counselors remaining: 3’, etc. As the story repeatedly flashes backwards to the beginning of the summer, and then forwards again to the present, the graphics continue to appear, though in separate timelines with alternating statistics (!) and this curious decision (to include them at all let alone in different time settings) is emblematic of the main issue with the film: We’re constantly jumping around so much that we never settle into a comfortable narrative rhythm, and we never really get to know or care about anyone - we would not need to be reminded how many characters had died if we did.

The film is only just held together by Kranz, whose neurotic charm and likability make him an agreeable lead (playing a more straight-laced version of his bumbling stoner from ‘Cabin’) but even he can’t keep the film from feeling rather flimsy and fractured. There are plenty of inventive and gruesome deaths - heads are chopped off, limbs routinely separated from torsos - but emotional impact is there none. The film seems more content to rack up the references (Friday the 13th, Nightmare on Elm St., Slaughter High, Sleepaway Camp, Just Before Dawn, Sisters... etc.), than to invest time in fleshing out its characters. Kranz and Hannigan (whose presence is essentially an extended cameo) aside, I don’t remember anything about the other players - they exist primarily to be dispatched.

I don’t want to get too down on this film. There are laughs, and Kranz and Hannigan have some playful banter, I only wish there had been a cleaner through-line to the story and a less bland supporting cast. As it is, the film passes the time, but not much more.

Recommended Release: Cabin in the Woods

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