“From the creator of” or “from the producer of” are rarely good taglines when it comes to the one-sheets for middle shelf movies that are in serious need of a little traction. That’s not to say that they are all bad; on the contrary, most are worth a watch while cracking open a beer with your feet up at the end of a long day. But it almost never guarantees the quality it is trying to promise by mentioning another, much better and well-known film or series.
Don’t Look Back (or Good Samaritan, as it is also known) comes to us “from the creator of Final Destination”; Jeffrey Reddick, and is based on his short film of the same name. In a past life, Reddick was the writer of the original, unused The X-Files script that became Final Destination which he also wrote with X-Files alums James Wong and Glen Morgan. The writer also penned 2018’s middle-of-the-road karmic horror The Final Wish. It seems that Mr. Reddick has found his niche.
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Almost a year after seeing her father killed in a home invasion, Caitlin Kramer (Kourtney Bell) is front and centre for a brutal, fatal assault in which the handful of witnesses, herself included, do nothing to intervene, even filming it for… whatever people film these things for. Twitter likes?
The film takes an interesting turn as a sea of anger is aimed at the witnesses for not getting in-between the killer and his random victim. This sets Caitlin on a guilt-fuelled nightmare as she finds herself literally haunted by the angry spirit of the man she watched get beaten to death on her morning jog. But as the witnesses to the crime slowly start to meet similarly bad ends, all with the haunted Kramer nearby, and the police start to ask questions, the biggest part of the puzzle is if Caitlin can survive the spirit that appears hell-bent on karmic revenge.
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In line with films like Final Destination, Don’t Look Back has a very similar feel; that those who have somehow cheated will eventually be getting what they deserve. The issue with that feeling in this case, is that the killer that the handful of soon-to-be victims refused to jump on appeared to not only be significantly bigger than everyone watching, but the sheer randomness of the attack suggests the guy was a full-on psychopath! It’s fine to preach that the social media generation would rather take photos and live-stream events like that over calling the police or even yelling a half-hearted “leave him alone”, and it is ok to try and make that the moral centre of your tale – but there needs to be a level of believability to the proceedings.
That’s not to say that it is a bad kicking off point for a spooky slasher-hybrid film, but it puts filmmakers on the back foot if your audience can’t relate to the situation. It doesn’t help when the film’s message about the perils of a good social media frenzy is slapping audiences around the face as the titles roll, but never really revisits it after that. It’s not a deal-breaker, there are a couple of fun scares and a few pointed fingers that help make up for it.
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What does hurt this film is the fact that there isn’t a single original thought for the hour and a half that it is playing. From the appearance of a crow to signify the presence of the recently deceased entity that may or may not be taking revenge on those that just watched his fate, to the permanently suspicious copper (Jeremy Holm, The Ranger) who doesn’t seem to be able to put two and two together without getting seventeen, Don’t Look Back is ninety minutes of frustration, with deaths as uninspired and dreary as the dialogue that surrounds them. Characters have little fleshing out before they are removed from this world and the finale is as unsatisfying as a cold McDonald’s happy meal. You know what you were supposed to get; you know it could have been better; but it all went horribly wrong in the execution.
Don’t Look Back is available On Demand on 16th October.