April 25, 2024

Don’t Look Away 2023 Movie Review

Don't Look Away
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Don’t Look Away 2023 Movie Review

“Don’t Look Away” is a textbook film for anybody hoping to learn how to make a scary, fun and attention-worthy thriller with next-to-no-money. Need something to “stalk” victims, a variation on The Many Faces of Chucky that’s fresh and a novel bit of scriptural problem solving? What could be scarier than a murderous mannequin?

“It moves without moving,” one alarmed would-be victim mutters in a less-experienced actor’s version of shock. “It’s everywhere, and nowhere at the same time,” another gasps. That’s how you solve the problem of “animating” an inanimate object, a mysterious and murderous “mannequin, like they have in Bloomingdale’s” who in shadows and silhouette looks like Gort from “The Day the Earth Stood Still” went on the Slenderman Fast diet.

He doesn’t really “move.” He’s edited, quite clevery, into this spot, that shadow and right into your face. It’s creepy as hell, and it has the young people it’s chasing shouting “Don’t LOOK AWAY” because that’s when it sneaks up on you. “Run! GET OUT!”

Well, they’re young Canadians, so it’s “Get OOOOT!” But you get the idea. Kelly Bastard (okaaay) stars as Frankie, the young woman who accidentally stumbles into a truck-hijacking where the hijackers are slaughtered when they open the lone box in that trailer. She “sees” what did this. She is rendered speechless.

Phd candidate beau Steve (Colm Hill) has a hard time getting a word out of his LSAT-studying girlfriend, or taking her fear seriously. But her friends drag her to the club. A little molly from her pal Molly (Vanessa Nostbakken) and Frankie isn’t just seeing things in the shadows, she’s struggling to explain to cops how she’s covered in another person’s blood, seeing as how it’s not the first time in the past two days.

Her friends don’t believe her, until they see “it.” Steve may never buy in, but old beau Jonah (co-writer Michael Mitton) does. He sees this plastic “SlenderMan.”

Mitton and director Michael Bafaro, billed as “The Michaels, shared writing credits in this hit-or-miss indie. They might have leaned a little more into how darkly funny this all is. Horror references abound in the dialogue, the editing (“Signs”), and we “hear” friends watching “The Shining.”

There’s a too-slowly rising threat level that should ratchet up suspense and fear, but doesn’t. Only a couple of the players seem very good at conveying “terror” anyway.

A brisk, bravura opening with mostly off-camera violence (slaughter and gunshots heard, not seen) and the viewer getting just a fraction of a glimpse of this scary prop in the shadows out of Frankie’s field of vision eventually sags into a duller talky, relationshippy middle act. And the “explainer” finale leaves a lot fo be desired.

But blocking, shot compositions, cinematography and editing energize it, and a chilling electronic score by Phil Western brings to mind John Carpenter’s musical gifts, which is the whole idea.

Shortcomings aside, by all means take that title seriously. “Don’t Look Away,” you might miss something scary, funny and pretty good.

Don’t Look Away 2023 Movie Review