Somewhere along the way, it feels like we all started assuming that no plot and basic horror characters equaled “classic horror”, and, well, hell no to that idea….
…It’s clear that Don’t Look is aiming to recall classic hillbilly slashers such as Slaughterhouse or Wrong Turn, but is doing so without fully understanding what makes those films great. Making her directorial debut is actress Luciana Faulhaber, teamed with first time feature writers Jessica Boucher and Danielle Killay, telling a story in Don’t Look which can basically be summed up as five asshole kids from NYC head up to an old farmhouse to be obnoxious and screw, only to find their horny fire put out by a wet blanket killer in a clown mask. And that’s the most exciting I can make this stale horror flick sound.
The film opens with a young Nicole (Bella Plotkin), finding her father (Preston Eshelman) in an odd position, followed by him unconvincingly dropping the title of the film by saying, “don’t look”. Years later, Nicole (Lindsay Eshelman) and her friends show up at Lindsay’s old house. It’s a weak opening, followed by an even weaker introduction to our main cast of characters, which involves Ted (Jeff Berg), Alex (Curtis K. Case), and Sebastian (Javier E. Gomez), laughing at a lost dog poster. I immediately hate these people. It’s a hatred for this cast which I came to know well, since these guys are obnoxious as hell, Nicole is barely more than a lampshade in a film that’s supposed to be about her, and the only one even the least bit interesting is Lorena (Faulhaber), a “final girl” boiled down to pure basics, in that she’s tough and not much else. In fact, everyone in this film essentially revolves around one mindset, either “I like sex”, or “I don’t like sex, but I kind of do”. You’ll find yourself waiting anxiously for this cast to get killed off, and cheer when they finally meet their bloody end, because you’re saved from having to hear another forced laugh at their own jokes.
It isn’t enough that the characters in Don’t Look are as annoying as a machete on a chalkboard. They’re also beyond idiotic. Whether Lorena is touching a clearly dead, butchered pig hanging in the barn only to realize “it’s real”, or Alex is deciding to bang the hillbilly neighbor, Sherri (Hailey Heisick), just moments after kicking her and her husband (Jarrod Robbins) out of the house for being so creepy they might as well have “murderer” tattooed on their foreheads, these people are dumb with a capital D. Which works just fine in a lot of B-horror flicks, as long as the film is in on the joke, which Don’t Look doesn’t seem to be.
But that isn’t to say Don’t Look doesn’t have its own flavor of stupid humor. One refreshing twist on the whole thing and a reason it’s great to see a trio of women behind this is that, even though Lorena is treated like our “final girl”, it doesn’t mean she isn’t flawed or doesn’t like to get it on like everyone else, because she’s, you know, HUMAN. At one point, Lorena finds herself half-nude, blindfolded and handcuffed, when she suddenly gets splashed with her partner’s blood and says, “awe, so soon?” Don’t Look isn’t shy about letting us know exactly what kind of film it is. And for those into kinky redneck sex, the film has you covered, with Kelley in suspenders and rabbit ears, fed by a giant rodent feeder held by a half-naked Sherri. So, there’s that. And to the filmmaker’s credit, Don’t Look is (mostly) doing exactly what it sets out to do, which is present a callback to simple, weird, pigs and guts and pig guts horror.
Don’t Look may be as flat as the brains of its cast, but Faulhaber’s film does at least live up to the gore factor of the hillbilly slashers it’s attempting to emulate. The dialogue in this film is painful, but not nearly as painful as the punishment doled out on these characters. The effectively creepy clown-masked killer takes pride in his work, spilling gallons of blood and ripping out intestines with a curiosity that will give you a stomach ache. Don’t Look is gleefully repulsive whenever it can be. If there’s an opportunity to have a character digging through a pile of guts for keys, you’d better believe there’s going to be some gut-digging. There isn’t quite enough carnage to save this lackluster slasher running at just seventy minutes, but these are the moments when Don’t Look polishes some of the rust off and begins to shine.
Don’t Look is unsatisfying, dull at its worst and average at its best. This is as basic as the genre gets, with nothing you haven’t seen before, except maybe some kinky cosplay sex. The filmmakers, to their credit, toy with certain tropes, such as the creepy neighbors and the idea of what a final girl really is, but everyone is so underdeveloped that the audience likely either won’t notice or won’t care. The film says not to look. I say you’re better off just not watching altogether.
Don’t Look squeals onto VOD May 14th from Wild Eye Releasing.
By Matt Konopka