We’ve all been there. Your friend has something they want to tell you, need to tell you. But they’re anxious. They don’t just come right out with it. They drop kernels of their story, gauging perhaps your interest or judgment. Dutifully, you give them your attention and advice. You patiently ask questions. You dig for details. But we’re not always ready for the full truth when it’s laid bare and bloody. This is the circumstance at the center of horror-comedy You Might Be The Killer, which stars Joss Whedon associates Alyson Hannigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and Fran Kranz (Dollhouse, Cabin In The Woods).
While working the closing shift at a comic shop, Chuck (Hannigan) gets an unexpected call from her pal, Sam (Kranz), who’s supposed to be “off the grid” while running his family’s summer camp. But after the counselors assembled to prepare for the arrival of campers, something went terribly awry. A slasher invaded their flirtatious revelry and has been slaughtering the counselors one by one. After trying to call the cops to no avail, Sam reaches out to the one person who might be able to get him through this night alive, a friend who knows every horror-movie trope ever to hit the big screen. But—as the title suggests—Chuck quickly realizes that her blood-drenched pal isn’t just a hapless victim.
You Might Be The Killer sets up an amusing comedy duo. Frantic and confused, Sam is a neurotic explosion of energy, yipping with terror as his would-be prey try to burn down his hiding place, and springing into slapstick in an ill-fated attempt to stop himself from further mayhem. Meanwhile, Chuck is the straight man, calmly taking in every grisly bit of information while scrolling through arcane reference books and side-eying nosey shoppers. But this phone-call device means Kranz and Hannigan never share the screen, always distanced by opposite ends of the phone line. This chokes any tension that might be garnered from the less goofy kill scenes. However, the plotting—which zips back and forth through Sam’s murderous night—adds some verve by keeping the audience off balance. Blood-red title cards chart time by how many counselors are dead. As Sam bounces through these memories, a curious story takes shape. There’s just one problem: this isn’t Cabin in the Woods good.
Look. I know, it’s unfair to compare. Cabin in the Woods was a masterpiece of horror-comedy. Not only did it skewer a slew of subgenres, it did it with a sharp wit and sharper awareness of those tropes that revealed a deep love of the whole of horror, warts and all. And on top of sidesplitting laughs and a jaw-dropping mystery box, that horror-comedy offered some seriously scary sequences. Not every horror-comedy can be that good. Not every horror-comedy needs to. But not every horror-comedy stars Cabin in the Woods’ scrappy stoner. Watching Kranz hurl himself into these creepy clichés (albeit from a slightly different angle), it was impossible not to think of Cabin in the Woods! And You Might Be The Killer suffers by comparison. Sure, this horror-comedy knows its tropes, from cryptic backstories, signature weapons, cursed graves, to Final Girls. But You Might Be The Killer lacks the sophistication to sink its fingers into the heart of what those tropes mean about the genre and what our anticipation of them says about us as an audience. It’s not a satire, it’s a spoof.
So my advice?
You Might Be The Killer is a zippy and ghoulish slasher. It swiftly establishes stock characters from horror and summer camp comedies, so the oversexed jock and the Final Girl mingle with the nebbish nerd, the sexy dream girl, and Steve the Kayak King! Jumping around the timeline means the kills are played more as bloody jokes than staunch terror, which is fun in a midnight movie way. The lore within feels familiar, yet fresh enough to offer a few surprises. And Kranz and Hannigan are compelling even if they never do share a frame. It’s fine. It’s fun. But it’s not Cabin in the Woods.
You Might Be The Killer made its world premiere Fantastic Fest.
Header Image Source: Fantastic Fest