11th Apr2019

‘Look Away’ VOD Review

by Alain Elliott

Stars: India Eisley, Jason Isaacs, Mira Sorvino, Penelope Mitchell, John C. MacDonald, Harrison Gilbertson, Kristen Harris, Michal Bernstein, Glenn Odero, Ernie Pitts | Written and Directed by Assaf Bernstein

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Standards are pretty high for horror movies in 2019. Despite what some mainstream movie websites might tell you, there have been many, many, great horrors in the last five years. Every year there seems to be more original and fantastic films. So it’s great to watch something like Look Away with no idea what it is about and no expectations; because more often than not, I’m impressed.

Look Away is one of those clever films that clearly has plenty of influences and it wears those influences on its sleeve but still manages to feel very fresh. Those influences mainly coming of age movies, from Carrie to Ginger Snaps to Let The Right One In – you can probably see the link. There’s a female coming of age story in Look Away and it’s done with a refreshing amount of originality. We do get some things that genre fans will have seen before: the shy and quiet girl who then gets bullied and turns on her attackers. Yes, you might feel like you have seen all this before but that really isn’t the case. In part because everything is just so well produced and acted, this is at least of high quality.

Children or teenagers being bullied is always something that gets to me. I always find it a hard watch when made right and the one scene in Look Away that best shows this was one of the hardest to watch I have seen. There’s nothing gruesome or particularly harsh in the scene (especially when compared to other horror films), which perhaps tells how good the directing and acting is to make it really hit home. Just seeing a girl dragged along an ice rink, clearly in distress while being laughed at by all of her classmates becomes a perfect set-up for revenge. I felt sympathy for the main character Maria before this scene but after it I was desperate to see her seek out this revenge, especially on Mark, her main bully.

Ice skating seems like an odd sport to have several scenes about in a horror movie but it works surprisingly well. There’s a kind of ice skating dance off that isn’t anywhere near as bizarre as it sounds and builds nicely to a intense climax. I am also a big fan of snow when used right in genre (and not just at Christmas) and as a backdrop to several scenes in Look Away, it looks fantastic.

Using two experienced actors as the mother and father was a wise casting choice. Jason Isaacs (Harry Potter, The OA) plays the father and Mira Sorvino (Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion, Mimic) plays the mother and both put in assured performances. Alongside them is India Eisley as Maria and her mirror image. It’s not giving anything away to say she plays those two parts because it’s made clear very early on that that is the way things I heading. It plays out like a good and evil twin and while I preferred Eisley as the innocent Maria – a role I think she is more suited to, she does great as her mirror who has the guts to do the things that she might think about doing but never actually would.

It’s a surprise that director Assaf Bernstein hasn’t really created much else of note because Look Away is a film that is a strong and excellently made coming of age horror. There’s some really sharp and great cinematography. Even in a sub genre that already features a few greats, Look Away sits nicely with them.

**** 4/5

Look Away is a dark, twisted and engaging movie, a real highlight of 2019, so far. The film will be available on VOD on Monday April 15th.

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