When authors Sam Sykes (The Mortal Tally, An Affinity for Steel) and Chuck Wendig (Star Wars: Aftermath, Blackbirds) had a detailed Twitter conversation deconstructing the horror genre last year, who could’ve guessed we’d see that conversation brought to the big screen?
But that’s exactly what co-writer and director Brett Simmons did with You Might Be the Killer, a cute, clever, horror film that has plenty of merit, but doesn’t quite live up to its meta-predecessors like The Cabin in the Woods or Scream.
The film begins with Sam (played by Cabin in the Woods star Fran Kranz) calling his friend Chuck (Buffy the Vampire Slayer star Alyson Hannigan) with a problem. He's at a camp and all the counsellors are being killed. Chuck is an expert in horror movies, so she tries to figure out how Sam can survive. And, pretty quickly, the title comes into play. Maybe Sam isn't the one who needs to survive... because maybe he's really the killer.
Using flashbacks and a funny on-screen kill count, Simmons jumps back and forth through time, answering one mystery while uncovering the next. Then that mystery gets solved and another is created. The constant back and forth of the past and present give the film a nice driving force, and -- without spoiling anything -- the film eventually takes a left turn that definitely kicks things up a notch.
However, even when the film is giving us something new to ponder, it almost always feels like it's spinning its wheels. There's lots of over-explanation, scenes that drag out a bit too long, and multiple endings, all of which stretch this concept to its limits. Which makes sense, of course -- it's adapting a Twitter conversation into a 90-minute movie. But the idea almost always feels stronger than the execution. Plus, if you've watched even a handful of horror films, you will often feel a few steps ahead of the characters.
That's not always the case though. You Might Be the Killer has a few scattered instances where the film does surprise its audience, and that's where it shines. You just can't help but wish, once the credits roll, that there were more of those moments.
Still, there's more to like about You Might Be the Killer than not. Even when it's a little obvious and slightly monotonous, Kranz and Hannigan are engaging, the large supporting cast plays their stereotypical victim roles well, the gore is great, and it's fun to try and guess where this is all going. Most of the time, you'll guess right, but that's basically the point.
The film makes it very clear that horror movies can work as pure entertainment, even when the audience knows what's coming. Slight deviations from the expected formula can make even a flawed film a worthy addition to the genre -- and You Might Be the Killer is definitely that.
You Might Be the Killer had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest 2018 this weekend. It does not yet have distribution.