The dvd release had an interesting commentary with film professor Mark Jancovic and critic Danny Leigh discussing its style and themes. When I’d first watched the film I was impressed as it reminded me of other ‘post-modern’ films like Donnie Darko and Drive, but also clearly influenced by films like Halloween, The Shining, Blue Velvet and David Cronenberg. Some online horror fans thought it was quite bad, and I believe it’s slightly too arty to be a typical horror movie that follows a standard formula.
The commentators discussed how cleverly it deconstructs ‘the rules’ of 80s horror films in that the group of friends don’t get picked off one at a time by their stalker, and that they don’t really behave like teenagers normally do. None of characters use phones or computers, and most of the technology and fashion seems vintage, despite that it’s clearly set in the present day. It’s as if social media and technology, like the pornography the characters discover in a later scene, is part of an adult world that exists on the fringes, and one associated with sex.
Another detail I didn’t realise was that the novel which one of the teens reads on a kindle is actually Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, and which is recited towards the end following the climax ; a novel about an inept ruler. This itself seems like an obscure reference to both the main protaganist ‘Jay’ (Maika Monroe), the ‘final girl’, and the audience observing and ‘following’ her in this horror narrative, and whom presumably remain unaware of the reality and its consequences.
Rewatching the ending, which at first seems like a childish and feeble attempt to electrocute the invisible monster, the commentators agreed that this plan made no logical sense, which again is typical of horror film plotlines. However, it does position the ‘final girl’ in genuine peril, and debatably the purpose and symbolism of this as a genre cliche does ironically serve to defeat the monster. It suggests this may have been a deliberate part of the plan afterall, and a growing awareness of the pervading toxic culture. Weirdly, whenever one character attempts to fire a gun this ends with another character getting accidentally shot or almost killed, and seems to underlie their helplessness as adults.
Similarly the images of beaches and swimming pools, presented as places of safety, and perhaps symbols of childhood vacations, appears to both stifle and provoke the creature’s wrath.
The final scene where the lead girl succombs to the sexual advances of her childhood friend seems as if she’s choosing the lesser of two evils, by giving into both peer pressure and abandoning herself to the world of dating, possessive boyfriends and promiscuity.