Don’t Look Back (2020), Jeffrey Reddick, (Horror Movie Review)

PLOT: A young woman traumatized after the murder of her father discovers that the road to recovery is not so easy. After her terrible experience, she unluckily becomes part of a group of witnesses who watch as a man is brutally attacked in the park. Soon after, all those that stood by come to the realization that they are in danger as a mysterious stranger – or perhaps something more supernatural – begins picking them off, one by one.

REVIEW: Jeffrey Reddick is no stranger to unexplained phenomena picking off victims one by one. After all, he helped make invisible death frightening courtesy of his sharp script for FINAL DESTINATION. The screenwriter has returned with a new tale of terror, this time he's taking on an extra duty behind the camera as well. For his feature film directorial debut DON'T LOOK NOW, his focus is less on the gruesome kills and more on faith, karma, and the trappings of guilt. Even with a limited budget, there is a strong sense of doom and dread, with a hint of how faith can become an important tool in healing and survival. This is is an impressive independent flick from the man who made flying and freeway travel terrifying.

When we first meet Caitlin Kramer (Kourtney Bell), she awakens to hear her father (Orlando Eric Street) giving her a surprise birthday visit. Yet things take a deadly turn when two men break in and kill her dad, and even end her life for a moment – thanks to a miracle, they're able to bring her back. Dealing with the guilt of her deceased parent, and struggling to find some normalcy with the help of her boyfriend Josh (Skyler Hart), Caitlin is caught in yet another terrible predicament. While walking in the park, she and a group of strangers witness the brutal beating of a man (Dean J. West) whom she has a brief exchange with. Instead of coming to his rescue, they just watch while one man (Stephen Twardokus) decides to film the event on his phone. After the horrible experience, the man's brother Lucas (Will Stout) makes the intentional mistake of outing the people who witnessed the attack on his sibling. Things get scary when Caitlin and the men and women involved discover they're in mortal danger from a deadly and mysterious threat.

Don't Look Back, Jeffrey Reddick, Final Destination, Kourtney Bell, Will Stout, Skyler Hart, horror, JoBlo.com, AITH, Arrow in the Head

One thing that is distinctive with DON'T LOOK BACK is how it brings up the subject of religion, as well as the idea of karma. There's a wealth of ideas and exchanges here. It may play a bit liberally with these specific belief systems, yet it certainly manages to bring something different to the mix. Without getting heavily into the mystery of it all, Caitlin is faced with a series of hallucinations that haunt her after both losing her dad, and finding herself as an eyewitness to an act of violence. There is a dynamic that plays out between her, the other witnesses, and the man who lost his brother. These are weighty themes for a horror film, especially adding in the idea of nobody stepping in to help someone in need. While these grand ideologies sometimes get a bit too heavy for their own good, they are explored well enough to give the story a bit of an edge.

If you are looking for a blood and guts type of horror flick, this may not be your cup of plasma, but if you want a cool and spooky mystery with an intriguing premise and a ton of heart, there is much to admire. Reddick's assured thriller places focus on character, while still creating a thoughtfully constructed mystery that has a clever way of unraveling. The heart of that comes with an impressive leading performance courtesy of Kourtney Bell. This is her story, and she excels at giving us a vulnerable, sympathetic, and worthwhile lead. As well, instead of relying on cheap shocks and manufactured scares, there's an emotional depth to how and why she is being tormented, one that feels especially relevant in today's world.

Don't Look Back, Jeffrey Reddick, Final Destination, Kourtney Bell, Will Stout, Skyler Hart, horror, JoBlo.com, AITH, Arrow in the Head

DON'T LOOK BACK proves that Reddick is a much-needed voice in the horror genre, especially when it comes to bringing a bit of cerebral context to the thrills on display. Not only has he crafted a smart and satisfyingly spooky tale, but he's also done so uniquely and maturely. It's a haunting and curious horror story that resonates in a world where iPhones and media have become all too prevalent, or perhaps not prevalent enough depending on the situation at hand. While the mix of the supernatural, and the possibility of a more grounded threat are teased throughout, the film manages to create a couple of truly creepy images. Even with a modest budget, Reddick and crew manage to make the most of the relevant and atmospheric story.

Reddick's debut is an engaging thriller that attempts to balance supernatural elements with something more reality-based. The cast is good – including Damon Lipari, Stephen Twardokus, Han Soto, Amanda Grace Benitez, Jaqueline Fleming, Jeremy Holm, and both Stout and Hart – but the real star here is Kourtney Bell. The actress gives a very genuine performance as a very scared and paranoid woman dealing with a few unsettling events. The budget at times is noticeable and occasionally lessens the impact, but this is rare. Ultimately this is an evenly-paced and on occasion, a surprisingly emotional feature. This may not please horror hounds looking for blood and guts, but it's certainly a worthwhile flick to spend a couple of hours with. And it's a good indication that we'll be seeing more from Mr. Reddick as he brings his writing and directorial talents together.

DON'T LOOK BACK opens in theatres and on-demand October 16, 2020.

Source: Arrow in the Head

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JimmyO is one of JoBlo.com’s longest-tenured writers, with him reviewing movies and interviewing celebrities since 2007 as the site’s Los Angeles correspondent.