Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"With the teenagers full of the ill-considered callousness of youth, it's Goss on whom the film depends for a moral compass. This is his best work to date." | Photo: Courtesy of FrightFest

Miriam (Brittany Raymond), Jenny (Brittany Teo) and brothers Derek (Keenan Tracey) and Ian (Spencer Macpherson) are the kind of teenagers nobody expects any trouble from. Well spoken, nicely dressed and always respectful to their parents and teachers, though not without ideas of their own to contribute in class, they're straight-A students with promising futures ahead of them. But like many young people who find life too easy, they're bored. They need a hobby to keep them amused and they've found one: killing people.

Opening with a sequence that will feel familiar to many slasher movie fans, with a young couple who have been looking forward to a weekend away finding themselves stalked at their quiet cabin in the woods, the film quickly turns things around to introduce us to the masked and leering culprits. At a planning meeting in school the next day, they discuss how they will do it next time. This wasn't their first killing and they're keen to refine their techniques, discussing the particulars as thy might plan out a piece of coursework. There's a dash of the Leopold and Loeb case in there but these kids aren't really trying to prove what they can get away with - they already know that. They're just looking for entertainment and exploring their own boundaries, enjoying that feeling of being a little bit edgy like they do when they quote Nietzsche in class.

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The tight knit group begins to unravel when Miriam forms an intense new friendship with another girl, prompting Jenny to worry that she might betray their secret. The sudden realisation of how much power each has over the others casts the first shadow of doubt over the notion that what they're doing is making them more free. And there's another complication. The boys' father (played by Luke Goss) just happens to be a police officer who has joined the dots between the murder cases and is on the hunt for what he believes to be a serial killer.

With the teenagers full of the ill-considered callousness of youth, it's Goss on whom the film depends for a moral compass. This is his best work to date. The contrast between his weary, trouble character (with echoes of Frances McDormand's iconic performance in Fargo) and the clear-cut, amoral world that the young people perceive is striking, and it foreshadows what makes this film special. It's easy for children to kill. They don't really understand the consequences, last of all their own mortality. But children grow up. As, one by one, the teenagers begin to see their actions in a different light, it becomes clear that nobody's going to come out of this emotionally unscarred - not even the perpetrators.

Very well pitched for a young audience (though supplied with a heavy helping of gore which may unsettle some parents), this is a coming of age story with a difference, inviting viewers to think about what their choices mean not just for who they are now but for who they might become. Despite this, it never feels preachy. It's fast paced, witty and sometimes sexy, a seductive package with a deceptively smart core and one of the best offerings for young audiences at this year's Frightfesr.

Reviewed on: 25 Aug 2019
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Four high school seniors feel their day-to-day lives at school are getting a little dull, so they made a pact to plan and execute a series of perfect, elaborate murders and get some thrills behind them before heading off to college.

Director: Ray Xue

Writer: Matthew Abrams, Padgett Arango

Starring: Luke Goss, Keenan Tracey, Brittany Raymond, Spencer Macpherson, Brittany Teo

Year: 2018

Runtime: 90 minutes

Country: Canada


Frightfest 2019

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