Don’t Look Away

Moving in and out of theatres faster than a killer sloth, fun and freaky flick Don’t Look Away offers audiences an ominous and haunting villain – a motiveless, murderous mannequin.

As soon as it’s accidentally released from its shipping box, the sinister mannequin (who remains nameless) doesn’t waste time stalking his prey. It’s hidden in plain sight; nude, smiling broadly,with sunken in eyes, sporting a greaser’s look. People can see it but, lose sight of it even for a moment, and it has relocated. The mannequin’s killing methods are ambiguous, but specific (and bloody) enough to still hold concern and shivering fear towards it.

Don’t Look Away holds a precise balance between allegorical meaning and popcorn genre flick. Since the mannequin starts stalking our lead Frankie (Kelly Bastard) soon after she hits and kills a trucker with her car, the looming presence of the mannequin could represent trauma and how hard it is to disassociate ourselves in the aftermath. Within her circle of hipsters, Frankie’s friends see the mannequin too, which could be interpreted as outsider support, through social osmosis, sharing the weight of her distress. Or, if you’re not interested in digging past its surface, Don’t Look Away works as an edge-of-your-seat thriller with enough scares, easter eggs, and uncomfortable giggles to go around; slathered with a fun, retro aesthetic (the film is dedicated to Sergio Martino, John Carpenter, and Larry Cohen to give you an idea of what The Michaels are going for stylistically).

Don’t Look Away is reminiscent of It Follows or She Dies Tomorrow, contemporary chapters to the “elevated horror” sub-genre that are supposed to guarantee viewers something more than screams ‘n slashes. However, those two examples became muddled in their own lore with the filmmakers stepping on their own toes when trying to create connections. Don’t Look Away is a superior movie because The Michaels are not intimidated to extend beyond their reach. They stick to a straightforward set-up with an effervescent energy, and they have a reassured, logistical understanding of how much of their film could be up for discussion and how much is simply there to scare the hell out of you.

With the home release turnaround closing in sooner around theatrical movies, I’ll have my fingers crossed that Don’t Look Away, one of the best and most entertaining horrors of the year, will be ready for this year’s Halloween viewing.


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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie

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