WARNING: THE FOLLOWING CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR THE MOVIE. READER DISCRETION IS ADVISED.
I saw the trailer for this movie a few years back, but only got around to seeing it after spotting it in my recommended videos on Netflix. The premise seemed interesting and I was in the mood for a good horror movie so I thought I would give this a shot.
What better movie to watch while in self-isolation during the apocalypse than one where two girls are stuck at their private school with the devil?
The end result was a mixed bag for me.
While the movie had far more going for it than it had against it, there were definitely a couple of issues I had with the finished product.
For one thing, this movie’s pacing is painfully slow.
Don’t get me wrong, I like a slow-burning horror. In fact, a slower pace can greatly benefit a horror flick because it gives the story enough time to build atmosphere and suspense.
That being said, I think the momentum of this movie was a bit too slow and plodding to keep my attention. There were so many times that I caught myself browsing Facebook between scenes, no doubt missing clever little Easter eggs in the process. I can appreciate the fact that the director doesn’t believe the audience has an attention span of a gnat and seems to understand story is the most crucial part of a movie as opposed to throat-slashers hiding behind every corner…Nonetheless, I wouldn’t have minded if he cut certain scenes short by five or ten minutes. It was successful in creating a creepy atmosphere, but I wish more attention had been payed to the relationship between Rose and Kat seeing as they are supposed to be the most important characters in this story.
Speaking of characters, I was disappointed by the treatment of Rose in this story. She didn’t seem to have much of a character arc apart from believing she has been impregnated by her boyfriend, only to discover she isn’t sooooo….kind of makes you wonder why that was even in the movie to begin with if it was going to be of no consequence to the story or her character development. I think they had a shot of creating an interesting character dynamic between her and Kat, but it wasn’t properly explored. Rose seems to exist solely so she can be murder fodder for Kat’s demon. Even her final moments were a massive anti-climax as she didn’t even have an opportunity to run. She was just shanked in the hallway and slowly bled to death. Perhaps that was the point and I’m just too obtuse to understand her death’s deeper meaning.
The twist about Joan being Kat was way too obvious, in my opinion. The casting director did a phenomenal job as Emma Roberts is a dead-ringer for Kiernan Shipka…..but therein lies the problem. They looked so much alike that literally the first scene I saw Joan in I thought “Oh, this must be an older Kat.”
I think if they left out the part about her being in a psych ward until later or showed her with longer or hair dyed a different color, this twist would have been better executed. Because I knew she was an older version of Kat, I was able to predict with a high degree of accuracy what was going to happen later on.
That isn’t to say the movie didn’t subvert my expectations at all, however.
I was surprised to learn that Bill was actually Rose’s father and I was impressed by how skillfully the director played our expectations against us.
I assumed–as I’m sure many did–that Bill had ulterior motives for picking up Joan from the bus station. After all, why would a stranger go out of his way to help a young, attractive woman he knows nothing about for seemingly no reason? Sure, he has his wife with him and he maintains a respectful distance from her at all times, but these could be red-herrings to convince her to lower her guard.
The scene where he talks to Joan in the hotel room is genius because the director convinces the audience Joan is the vulnerable one in this situation. She’s naked except for a towel. Her shoulders are rounded and she’s nearly bent double on the bed, clearly uncomfortable with his being there. As soon as Bill starts talking about God and destiny, the levels of awkwardness reaches new heights until we are sure he’s going to pounce….and then he doesn’t.
It turns out he was helping Joan out because he genuinely wanted to do good. He was a grieving father that was using his faith to find meaning in his loss. He didn’t pick up tramps from the bus station because they’re easy pickings, but because he believed God was meticulously placing them in his life so that he could fulfill some sort of purpose.
Bill was never the threat in this situation, Joan was.
This makes his death towards the end all the more tragic.
Speaking of deaths, I appreciated that the gore and violence didn’t come across as overly staged. The deaths in this movie felt startlingly real. There was plenty of blood, but not so much as to be excessive. The executions of the murders was well done also. The way it was shot, you could feel every stab, every puncture, like you were actually watching a snuff film of some sort. There was nothing artsy about them, they were heart-stopping in their banality.
The demon was understated as well, shown only as a silhouette or shadow on the wall. I thought this was an excellent choice as it gives the creature an air of mystery. I jokingly referred to It as the devil, but it is never made clear what It is. Is It the Devil? Is It one of his followers? It’s never explained and I thought the movie benefited from this ambiguity.
As for the killer herself, I didn’t expect to be thrown for such a loop. It was clear from the off this was going to be a “demon possession” story, but I wasn’t expecting it to be quite as psychological. Unlike in most possession stories, Kat is not pleased to be freed from the demon’s influence. In fact, she is so lonely that after escaping the asylum, she willingly seeks out the demon again in hopes of being reunited with it, only to find the demon has abandoned her forever and she is well and truly alone.
I have no clue if this was intentional on the director’s part, but this makes an interesting metaphor for toxic relationships. So many people find themselves in a partnership with a person who is obviously no good for them purely because they don’t want to be alone. It doesn’t matter if the person is using them, or turning them into a horrible person (in Kat’s case, a murderer), they will still go back to them because it’s better than being lonely.
I love this concept……but I wish we could have gotten a better idea of what Kat was like before this demon possession. We are given a small taste of her isolation, but her conversion took almost nothing. Considering how slow the pacing of this film was, you think they could have devoted just a smidge more time to fleshing out Kat’s backstory. I’m not saying we needed an in-depth character analysis, but she swallowed the whole “yo, your parents are ice” thing real quick.
You have to be REAL desperate to accept the Devil’s friendship request.
Personally, I found this film to be better in retrospect than upon initial viewing. I’ve since looked at several videos about it and I find I’m starting to like it more and more. As a matter of fact, I may watch it again so I can doubt check and make sure I didn’t miss anything.
So, in a nutshell, I guess this was a nice diversion from all the Coronavirus B.S.