Quick synopsis: A group of 20 year-olds party in a mansion during a hurricane and decide to play a party game. The bodies start piling up, as does the tension.
Occasionally a film completely dies because of the ending. My hatred for Unfriended and The Gallows partly comes from how much they fucked up the final minutes of their respective runtimes (or in the case of Unfriended, the final 2 seconds). This did the opposite, the final minute or so of this film completely saved it. Before that, I enjoyed it, but it was slightly frustrating and felt kind of unfocused.
The ending changes everything. It does what an ending like this should do. It recontextualises everything that happened before and makes you want to watch it again. It does have the slight downside of turning it slightly into a farce, but it works. The audience in the screen I was at seemed to enjoy it, and there was a delightful 10 second period where everybody in the audience knew it was happening and was just waiting with bated breath. Before that, it is an enjoyable watch, don’t get me wrong. It’s funny, looks great, and is full of good performances.
On the subject of performances, a lot of people have highlighted Rachel Sennott, making a point to talk about how good her performance is. It’s…..alright I guess. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it, but it didn’t really stand out to me. In my head when I try to recall it, for some reason I can’t picture her performance, instead I imagine all her scenes playing out the same, but with her replaced with Jessica Knappett. To me, the real highlight was Maria Bakalova. She graced our screen in the Borat sequel a few years ago, you know, when COVID was around and people in America were being openly racist to the point where it looked a bit violent and scary, thank god that’s not the case anymore. Here, she shows that her performance in that was not a fluke, she is, in fact, very talented, just as much in scripted as she was in the more improvised setting of Borat.
The other performances are good, and almost everybody comes out looking good. I think it helps that outside of Bakalova, Lee Pace, and Pete Davidson, I didn’t really know the performers in this. They were all fresh talents to me which allowed me to go in without preconceptions about who they are. Pace and Bakalova are talented enough to overcome them anyway, Davidson? Still a little unsure. I only know him as a performer through brief glimpses of SNL sketches I’ve come across, so I don’t know enough to judge him fully but it really does seem like he’s just playing himself in this. There’s nothing in it that feels like a “performance”, instead just feels like they filmed him on set.
It’s nice to see gay representation on screen, especially this openly. Normally it’s reduced to “they shared a look”, “oh look, they alluded to something” so they can get plausible deniability (or edit it for certain markets). This is a film that’s open with sexuality, and I can’t help but feel that part of that is because the director (Halina Reijn) isn’t American, she’s Dutch, which means she doesn’t have the same puritanical attitude to sex as an American director would. Also, when she shows lesbian physical affection on screen she doesn’t do it for a male gaze, which makes it seem more real and less “performative”, there’s genuine affection in the physicality here. This is her first English-language feature that she’s directed, when I heard that I assumed she had a long career in Dutch cinema. This is the work of someone who is comfortable behind a camera and knows the best way to express a script. But she’s only directed two films before this, and one of them was a short (For The Birds). That astounds me, I really hope this film is a success and it leads to a long career for her, if she’s this good now, I want to see what she’ll be like 3 films down the line.
The look for this is unique, the darkness combined with the neon lights gives the whole thing a slight “drunken party” vibe. The music also helps add to this. Very female-fronted rap and dance. Essentially it’s Frat-House Horror, the type of film you watch with a group of friends while drunk and high.
On that note, if EVER a film was crying out for some Ashnikko it’s this, I mean, Charli XCX is great too, but she’s not giving us lyrics like “you better stock up on tissues, jacking off to all my pictures”. That kind of open sexuality and party vibes would suit this film perfectly. It’s a minor gripe I know, but it feels so obvious that I have to say it.