If the story of a lunatic tapping on the roof of a car with the head that he has just severed is your gold standard for horror, then you will find plenty to give you the shivers in this little beauty.
It has always struck me that the genuinely scary things happen in the most ordinary of settings – abandoned Gothic houses and Transylvanian forests are all well and good, but it’s the axe-murderer in the unlit parking lot that really puts your hair on end.
Writer/director David Robert Mitchell’s not entirely coherent but always unsettling movie is located in Detroit.
Formerly a byword for America’s industrial might and power, the city is seen as a crumbling shell, with enclaves of suburbia caught in a TV time warp.
Malevolent, zombie-like people are at large, but they can only be seen by those who share a common thread of sexual activity.
Teenaged Jay (Maika Monroe) shags Paul (Jake Weary) and thereafter is hunted by the undead.
Pursuit and flight is the crux of the film, but it’s also hard to not see Mitchell’s vision as a metaphor for contemporary society (at least in the States).
His presentation is no-frills but dreamlike – the scene in which Jay runs screaming from her house after the appearance of one of her tormentors is of terrifying economy.
Mitchell also employs a lot of 360-degree camera pans, a technique that never fails to put you on edge as you await the oddity, the kinky thing barely noticeable in the fleeting images, and he pays homage throughout to the classics of the genre.
The kids – there are hardly any adults involved – form a tight gang, with Paul (Keir Gilchrist) getting weirder by the minute and Yara (Olivia Luccardi) grimly reading Dostoyevsky’s musings on death while she munches sloppily on a salmon sandwich.
I was reminded strongly of Carnival of Souls (1962), especially as they approached the illuminated pool in the finale, and, with the closing shot, of the spooky photography of Diane Arbus.
~ John Campbell