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Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Review: Behind You

Director: Andrew Mecham and Matthew Whedon
Screenplay: Andrew Mecham and Matthew Whedon
Year: 2020

Haunted house and demonic presences horror movies are a constant in this cinema genre. With the great number of movies about this topic, it gets increasingly difficult to surprise with a movie of this sort and is equally hard to innovate in a field where everything has already been done. “Behind You” is the new independent proposal that seeks to make itself space between the infinite number of haunted houses and demons movies, but it doesn’t bring much material to defend itself. 

After the death of her mother, two sisters go live with an aunt they do not know. After arriving at her aunt’s house, the sisters must adjust and follow a series of strange rules and they notice that all the mirrors in the house are covered. One of the sisters finds a mirror in the basement and without realizing it frees a powerful demon that inhabits the house.

The opening scene is effective in quickly establishing the tone of the movie and in exposing the supernatural strength that acts as the antagonist of the story. In this scene, we get a glimpse of how a child sees a demon in a mirror and how this proceeds to take her. Beyond the importance of this event later on in the plot, this scene sets an ominous tone and promises to use this entity to bring some scares but falls short of delivering.

After this event, we leap through time and get to the two sisters, who are the protagonist of the story, when they reach their aunt’s old house. If there is something where co-directors and co-writers Andrew Mecham and Matthew Whedon stand out in their debut full-length film, it is in establishing the ambiance, which is imposing since the first take inside the house. The old and slightly uncared for look of the house and the poor lighting is extremely effective in creating this terrifying tone.

Once in the house, the aunt starts informing them of a series of rules to which they must comply and at the same time, the issues of the movie start to be exposed. The most important of these is how the screenplay is worked, particularly in the exposition moments and in the decisions of the characters. Here is where the inexperience of Mecham and Whedon shows up and where they throw out the window everything they do right in the visual aspect. The following scenes fortify this argument. 

Even with the great work of the cast, starring Addy Miller (“The Walking Dead”), Elizabeth Birkner (“The Outpost”), Jan Broberg (“Maniac”), and Philip Brodie (“Unlocked”), it is hard to be interested in any of the characters and the surprising amount of dumb decisions they make is enough to take the viewer out of the movie. Many of the decisions of the characters have no other purpose than to move the plot from one place to another and the way in which exposition is spoon-fed in the dialogue makes the movie feel amateurish and rough. On top of that, the visual element is never capitalized on, which is the best-crafted area, and the cliché demon that is presented lacks scenes in which it can deliver a scare. Also, the plot twists don't carry the desired effect and end up being more frustrating than surprising. 

“Behind You” offers itself as a movie with plenty of atmosphere and scares, but only delivers on the first. The screenplay contrasts with the visuals and makes the movie look unpolished and exposes the inexperience of the duo of co-directors and co-writers. The potential of the story, the acting, and the visuals are hindered by the poor script and will end up becoming another haunted house movie that falls into obscurity.

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