On Thursday, September 20, David Gordon Green’s Halloween kicked off Fantastic Fest 2018. While that was a very fitting way to start one of the world’s largest genre film festivals, it wasn’t the first feature I saw this year (thank you press screening room!). And, truth be told, You Might Be the Killer is actually a film better suited to usher in the 14th year of this glorious festival. It’s more representative of what a genre film is, and one that has been lovingly constructed by cherry-picking elements of seminal slashers to offer something funny, fresh, reverent and thoroughly enjoyable. And it’s all based on this brilliant Twitter exchange between Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig.
The film has a hilarious mix of Sam Raimi and Edgar Wright style, but what director Brett Simmons and co-writer Thomas P. Vitale give viewers, from the first few seconds, is their own delicious take on slasher films. The result of which is a neo-retro adventure, and one so laugh-out-loud funny that it should quickly pick up a cult fan base after the credits roll. It’s a riff on what eventually became of the Friday the 13th series, but you can tell from the use of the vintage cameras, and other throwback elements that this is a lovingly crafted parody. If you aren’t hooked in the first three minutes, check your pulse – you might be one of the dead camp counselors.
You Might Be the Killer is a current day film that tries so hard to get back to the tech-free world of the ’80 – doing so makes the lack of communication so vital and terrifying to the narrative. Well, except for a real-time horror movie survival hotline by way of Alyson Hannigan giving advice to apparent horror newbie Fran Kranz. That in itself gets a huge chuckle because of his role in Cabin in the Woods when he already knew most of the tips and taboos. Anyway, it’s really a sprint to the finish, or better, to simply stay alive. It’s so much fun keeping up with the story that you’d want to see what the creative team could do with more serious fare like like of Hellraiser or A Nightmare on Elm Street.
A combination of sight gags, highly self-aware humor, and a brilliant use of non-linear storytelling, You Might Be the Killer plays with tropes, has a lot of fun with them, and turns things on their head; it’s a very original take on mindless slasher flicks. The frenzied style of filmmaking moves swiftly, keeps tension high, and gets maximum effect out of the rapid fire jokes. The humor works because of the pacing, but also because the whole endeavor is so meta. And the big turn in the film, a role reversal if you will, is quite inspired.
To help with the story, Andrew Morgan Smith seems to channel Alan Silvestri in composing this score. Sure, Silvestri scored Identity and episodes of Tales From the Crypt, but never a straight-up horror film (we don’t count What Lies Beneath or Death Becomes Her). That said, the sound-alike style really works here. Smith drops plenty of nods to Predator and, intentional or not, it adds to the ‘80s era charm of this game of cat and mouse. The music works to amp up the tension and help make the narrative beats more fun. And what an awesome song to close out the film; it’s easily as self-referential as “We’re the Spaceballs.”
It’s all as well done and fresh a take as Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon, and it does bring up some excellent logistical questions about being in these situations. For instance: does facial recognition work on your cell phone if your face is covered with blood? If you find the above question whimsical and humorous, then you are going to love this film. Enjoy every blood-soaked minute of your time in Camp Clear Vista!