Mirrors, creepy children, and demons: a recipe for a decent, if not groundbreaking, horror movie. Behind You (2020) is the story of two young sisters, Olivia (Addy Miller) and Claire (Elizabeth Birkner), who are sent to live with their estranged aunt by a neighbor in the wake of their mother’s untimely death. Upon their arrival, they discover all the mirrors are covered up to hide something sinister lurking within the house. Playing like Oculus meets Annabelle: Creation meets Lights Out, Behind You is a decent supernatural story that doesn’t quite deliver on what its premise promises.
Beginning with a flashback set in 1979, we see a little girl named Angela taken by a demon right in front of her sister Beth. Flash forward to the present and we see the aforementioned leading pair of girls, Olivia and Claire, being dropped off at their aunt Beth’s (played by Jan Broberg, best known as the child at the center of Abducted in Plain Sight), whom they have never met. With the demise of their mother and their father being out of the country on business and unable to be reached, the girls are brought to their aunt’s by a neighbor (Aimee Lynn-Chadwick). Initially, Behind You has all the trappings of an eccentric older family member’s house. Outdated wallpaper, strict rules, and plenty of forbidden rooms, like the study and the basement. Yet, as the girls explore it becomes apparent there is something more going on.
Eventually, Claire is led into the basement where she finds a corner of mirrors all covered and a single candle in the center. She believes she is communicating with her dead mother as writing begins to appear on the mirrors she uncovers. She repeats an incantation three times while looking in the mirror, not unlike a certain hook-handed spirit’s call, and then things begin getting even stranger. Suddenly Claire has a voracious appetite, sleeps in wardrobes by the basement door, and a bad habit of scratching at her stomach because “something needs to get out”. Will the demon from the mirror enter the real world and take Claire? Or will Olivia and her aunt Beth be able to save Claire’s life?
Behind You is well shot and one of my favorite aspects was the use of reflections. Aunt Beth’s entire house is covered in dated wallpaper, which is nothing but a repeated pattern, often making the walls a reflection of each other. Many of the furniture in the rooms are laid out in mirror fashion as well, showing an equal opposite for everything. The use of mirrors and doubles continues into the characters as well. In the 1979 flashback, there are two sisters, one taken and one not, and then the same is reflected in the modern storyline as the stories themselves echo each other. This use of reflections creates balanced images in a genre which frequently employs the use of negative space and enjoys creating uneven images.
The cast was also impressive for a film of unknown actors. They worked well off of each other with no one in particular acting circles around the other. With that said, Jan Broberg’s performance was the highlight of the ensemble, anchoring the other actors to each scene. One part I was not too keen on was the now almost tired concept of a demon using a child to enter the real world. Having been exhausted by the Conjuring-verse, the idea was not presented in nearly a new enough fashion to really make a splash. It would have benefited from a deepening of the mythology surrounding this particular demon and from having the demon be more of a physical presence throughout the film. Instead, the demon is just something discussed as mirrors are avoided and then momentarily seen through Claire’s possession.
The possession itself even seemed abrupt and unearned as it happens so quickly, despite it being one of the biggest plot points. The abruptness of it lessened the possible tension as the demon could have circled around Claire for a while before taking over, which I personally believe would have made for better scares and atmosphere. The final act of the film pulls from the influences listed above, without actually nailing any of their climactic elements. Without any spoilers for how the story plays out, the film simply would have benefited from a stronger demonic presence and a more original take on the demonic possession storyline. With that being said, the final act does well and wraps up nicely. My largest issue with the film was that more effort could have been placed into atmosphere and creep factor. At a tight 86 minutes, there was a lot of wiggle room with the pacing. Some bits could have edited more concisely to really emphasize atmosphere and build tension.
Behind You is a fun little flick that won’t knock your socks off but is worth a watch at a brisk 86 minutes. It won’t shatter any glass ceilings or break new ground, but it mostly nails the ground it retreads. The cast is a highlight, especially for an ensemble of unknowns, and much of the cinematography is well done. Its final third won’t shock you but it will easily keep you entertained and wanting to see how the story plays out, which is really all you can ask of a film. I would definitely recommend giving it a shot one rainy afternoon, but maybe cover up your mirrors first.
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