Inspired by a Twitter back-and-forth that went viral, You Might Be the Killer is an ambitious meta-horror comedy that seeks to poke a stick at standard slasher fare.
(I’m all for original source material, and Twitter seems to be ripe with horror content creators these days. [Oh heyyy] Just a few months ago, another project was picked up on the platform, after a cartoonists depictions of the ghost ‘Dear David’ haunting his abode went viral.)
And though there is a lot to love, and clearly a passion for the genre behind You Might Be the Killer, the back-and forth format was ultimately unsuccessfully optimized from tweets to film – resulting in a sometimes-entertaining, but mostly ‘meh’ experience.
Co-written and directed by Brett Simmons (Monkey’s Paw, 2013), You Might Be the Killer stars The Cabin in the Woods’ token stoner Fran Kranz as Sam, a camp counselor in a bind. He reaches out to geek and horror whiz Chuck, played by Buffy the Vampire Slayer alumni Alyson Hannigan. Campers are dying left and right, and strangely, Sam has his hands of a weird sacrificial dagger. Also, there’s this creepy mask..
Therein lies our first problem. The casting. Though both leads fulfill the duties of their roles and adequately represent their characters, they both come with their own inherent risks.
“Every scene we’re reminded that Cabin in the Woods exists, and that we should go watch it. Perhaps instead.”
Opting for the fan-favorite character of the only meta-horror comedy to reach mainstream audiences since the Scream franchise as Sam was a huge gamble. One that doesn’t pay off. Inevitably, this film was going to be compared to the meta’s that preceded it. Don’t make it easy for the audience to do that. Make us think you’re the only one. The best one. The funniest one. The smartest one. We don’t want to think about Jaws when we watch Friday the 13th.. that’s why Jason never fights a shark. He is the shark. (Though I would pay good money for a Jaws vs. Jason crossover. Good. Money.) Every scene we’re reminded that Cabin in the Woods exists, and that we should go watch it. Perhaps instead.
And though I’m a fan of Alyson Hannigan, she has this sweet naive charm that is completely and utterly endearing, locking her on set washed out with flood lights and very little action or much to do beyond acting into a rotary phone is – well, you guessed it – going to remind me of a television show. Her scenes (which are aplenty) only succeed in taking us out of the action, straight into a brightly lit swamp that slowwws everything to a crawl. Her quips are knowledgeable and at times funny when they come, but the audience is too busy trying to figure out why she’s involved and why her entire part wasn’t just written as a V.O. (That’s voiceover in screenplay speak.)
Another issue I take is with the entire story structure.. which I guess – is a pretty big issue. The film unravels in a staggered way, mainly because our protagonist Might Be the Killer and is searching the recesses of his brain for the events of that evening. Which is fine. But when you are using a storytelling device, such as jumping and warping timelines – there needs to be a reason for it, beyond the character needing to remember a few things.
We see a bunch of counselor deaths (which I’ll touch on again in a minute) out-of-order, repetitively, and from different vantage points. It’s a jarbled nightmare – for them and for us. But why? Is there anything revealed the second time around that wasn’t the first? Nope! The particular order of this clipshow doesn’t really have any bearing on the story. We gather Sam “might be the killer” by the first death. We’ve nothing to uncover, yet we’re still being told the story backwards. If your film can be told in any other way, you’re not telling it right. The timeline jumping is unnecessary. So in the end we jump from the past to the future and back again, just watching for the kills alone.
This is where, I’m happy to say, You Might Be the Killer excels. The kills are great. The gore is on point. And when the film gets a’slashing, it nails the 80’s slasher vibe that it is ultimately parodying. We do however, get to see those great kills too many times and they eventually lose their lustre. This film double dips on all of them. I swear, we watched the discovery of a particular hanging/gutting kill at least 5 times.
And in that 80’s slasher aesthetic, You Might Be the Killer also goes for the gold with titlecards and chapter breaks. I will admit, the faux film grain and blood-red titling got me giddy. I love a good titlecard. They are used uniquely, and are total fun – also they help us understand where we are jumping back to in the timeline – but as appears to be the theme of this review, are used excessively.
Overall, You Might Be the Killer exceeds at horror, fails at meta, and is meh at comedy. Horror fans will appreciate the violence and the nods to 80’s horror, but in order to love this film – you’re going to need to be a huge enough Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan to get over the repetitive lulls in action. Unfortunately, I am not.
You Might Be the Killer celebrated its world premiere at Fantastic Fest 2018. Check out all of Nightmare on Film Street’s Fantastic Fest coverage here!