23rd Oct2020

Frightfest 2020: ‘Don’t Look Back’ Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Kourtney Bell, Will Stout, Skyler Hart, Jeffrey Holm, Jaqueline Fleming, Amanda Grace Benitez, Damon Lipari, Han Soto, Dean J. West, Stephen Twardokus | Written and Directed by Jeffrey Reddick

Writer/director Jeffrey Reddick has a lot of form when it comes to supernatural horror. Not only did he create the long-running Final Destination franchise but he’s also behind the likes of underrated and under-seen supernatural slasher Tamara, Dead Awake and the more recent The Final Wish. All films that play with the idea of the dead returning for revenge on the living in one form or another. And Don’t Look Back is no different.

Don’t Look Back tells the story of Caitlin Kramer, a young woman trying to overcome her traumatic past who, whilst walking through the park one day, sees a man brutally assaulted. However no one intervenes to stop the attack. Instead they all start filming the shocking event with their smart phones, recording every bloody detail, in a brilliant indictment of todays culture of filming things rather than getting involved to STOP events! Ashamed of what everyone’s doing , Caitlin intervenes and calls the police but it’s too little too late and the man dies… Soon the uncaring witnesses find themselves targeted by someone, or something, out for revenge.

An expansion of his 2014 short Good Samaritan, of which this film originally shared the same title, Don’t Look Back is – on the surface – very much like the Final Destination films. That series saw people cheat death and so death came back to take them. Here we have people seemingly killed by karma – what goes around comes around as it were. People refuse to help and so they should pay the price for their inaction.

Well I say Don’t Look Back is like the Final Destination films but there’s one thing on which the two differ. The horror and gore. There’s almost none here. This film seems to be aimed at a much younger age group, one that gets creeped out by noises and darkness; in fact this film is so tame it feels more like a TV movie. But that’s not a bad thing. There have been plenty of scary TV movies made over the years and – thankfully – Don’t Look Back is at least scary. To a point. There’s an over-reliance on jump scares at times, though there’s one scene, in a morgue, that is particularly creepy and highly reminiscent of the Japanese horror such as Ju-on and Ringu. If we’d had more scenes like that then Don’t Look Back would have been an easy recommendation.

However, and not to spoil things, but there is a very good reason this type of scene is kept sparse; the big reveal identifying the true terror of what’s occurred (which, frankly, raises this film out of the mediocre gutter). And there’s a SUPERB sting in the tale that should have ended Don’t Look Back on a high note… I say should but Reddick insists on one last supernatural beat to the story that almost undoes everything that has come before.

Whilst it’s not going to set the world alight like Reddick’s more famous work – though it should be noted this the first film to feature Reddick as writer AND director, unlike anything he’s previously been involved with – it is a step up from 2018’s The Final Wish, which suffered from an all-too-familiar plot, and is a great star-making vehicle for lead actress Kourtney Bell, whose performance, filled with subtlety and strength, vulnerability and veracity, holds the entire film together.

*** 3/5

Don’t Look Back screened today, October 23rd, as part of this months Frightfest Digital Edition. The film is also out in cinemas and on-demand in the US now.


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