REVIEW: Don’t Look Back (FrightFest 2020)
Every year, Frightfest holds two film festival events. While the main event is held on August Bank Holiday, the October event is in the form of a one-day event, showcasing a range of horror films across all screens in one cinema. However, as we all know by now, Frightfest has gone digital and this month’s event is no exception. The October event this year, however, is a 4-day film festival, and the first film that I watched was Don’t Look Back.
Don’t Look Back (USA title ‘Good Samaritan’) is the directorial debut from Jeffrey Reddick (creator of the Final Destination franchise). Young woman Caitlin Kramer is among a group of people who witnessed a man getting beaten to death but did not do anything to stop it. When the witnesses start getting killed one by one, Caitlin suspects that the man’s vengeful spirit is out to get them.
As a big fan of the Final Destination franchise, this was a film that I was looking forward to. However, while the premise is interesting, it was disappointing. The idea of a spirit taking revenge on people that could’ve helped him makes for a tense and intriguing plot, however, it’s a plot that has been done countless times. While this film could’ve done something different with the recognizable synopsis, it instead swaps character and story development for cheap jumpscares and bad acting. The one positive that can be taken from Don’t Look Back is newcomer Kourtney Bell, who plays Caitlin Kramer. She carries the film to the best of her ability, and is fun to watch, even if her dialogue is not the best.
While Kourtney Bell is a positive, she is the only positive here. In the first few minutes of the film, the logic shown is flawed: the set up that is built during the opening credits implies that, every time a fight breaks out, people will just automatically film it on their phones. While this can happen, it doesn’t happen as many times as this film is making out. While it made some interesting points as to why the rest of the witnesses didn’t act, this detail still can’t be ignored. The logic between each witness murder case is also nonsensical. Because Caitlin keeps showing up at the location of each murder, the chief of police starts to accuse her of murdering them. However, these cases could easily be solved by a DNA test, which is never mentioned.
As well as the flawed logic, the production side of the film is terrible. This is the most overly edited film I’ve ever seen, with some cuts unnecessarily put in, presumably to extend the film’s running time. A particular bar scene was a dizzying experience, because of the shots chosen for it. In the scene, the camera is continuously spinning around the focused table, when a wide shot to close up shot of the focused characters would’ve worked better. The score is over dramatic, to the point of being annoying. It becomes extremely clear that Reddick was trying to create another Final Destination-style film but couldn’t remember why those films had succeeded. It would’ve come as no surprise if it was revealed that this was originally proposed as Final Destination 6. The score, at times, was extremely loud which was a cheap way to build tension in a scene, and screeching and other loud noises also serve as the film’s jumpscares, making it come across as tacky. The score at times even sounded like a cat was running over the instruments.
From the writer of the unique franchise Final Destination comes Don’t Look Back, a clichéd horror film that uses loud noises and screeching as its jumpscares and should’ve been 20 minutes shorter. It has an interesting concept, and Kourtney Bell does her best at carrying the film. But it can’t help but try and be Final Destination, which it is not. Don’t look back on this film; just run as far away from it as possible.