Run for your life
We are back with more from our Fall Themed Horror Series. For people in the US, we are just over a week away from Thanksgiving. One thing you absolutely must have for thanksgiving is an enormous turkey. With that in mind, Knockout Horror is set to deliver as we review slasher movie Kristy. Set at thanksgiving, I originally wanted this review to actually launch on the day itself. After watching the movie, however. I realised I simply couldn’t do that to you guys. This is a painfully average movie that simply doesn’t fit the bill. I promised a bunch of fall themed horror movies. I didn’t say they would all be good.
Set on a university campus. Kristy, directed by Olly Blackburn, follows student Justine. Everyone is leaving for the holiday but Justine is forced to stay behind. Combining the slasher genre with revenge horror. Kristy, at the very least, fits the criteria of a Fall Themed horror. With that being said, let’s take a look. As always I will give a quick spoiler free breakdown. You can skip that if you like.
November is Fall Themed Horror month. We will be reviewing a few movies every week that feature an autumn setting. The criteria is pretty broad here as the fall setting is rarely pivotal to the plot of a movie. It’s more of a coincidence than anything. Fallen leaves and orange hues are a must, however. When Fall Themed Horror month is over, we move onto December and Awful Advent. 25 days of Christmas themed horror reviews leading up to the big day. Definitely keep an eye out for that.
Kristy starts off with a bit of foreshadowing. We see a montage of women being murdered by an unknown group. The images and videos are uploaded to a website. Users are told to “Kill Kristy”. We next see student Justine, played by Haley Bennett, chatting with her boyfriend. Justine has made it to university thanks to financial aid. Unable to afford to go home for the holiday, she is forced to spend thanksgiving alone on campus. Her boyfriend Aaron, played by Lucas Till, offers to stay with her. Justine tells him to go home and enjoy spending time with his family.
Completely alone on an empty campus. Justine passes time by swimming, trying to run, and awkwardly dancing in the hallways. Think Samantha in House of the Devil but with far less rhythm. The only other people left behind are university staff members. Security guards Wayne and Dave, played by Mathew St. Patrick and Al Vincente, and groundskeeper Scott, played by James Ransone. Justine’s roommate has given her the keys to her BMW. Craving ice cream, Justine jumps in the car and heads on out.
At the nearby gas station, Justine notices a girl throwing magazines on to the floor. Minding her own business, she continues shopping. The girl, Violet played by Ashley Greene, walks up to Justine and comments on her car. Stroking her hair, she tells her she is beautiful which startles Justine. Justine heads to the counter followed by the girl. The girl demands a discount on a pair of sunglasses. Wanting to avoid trouble, Justine offers to pay. Violet tells her she doesn’t want anything from her and leaves the store. Minutes later, Justine walks out of the store. The headlights of Violet’s car beam into her eyes before it peels away.
Heading back to Campus, Justine suddenly rear ends a car parked in the middle of the road. It would appear the car belongs to Violet. She stares menacingly from the back window and draws a “K” into the condensation. Justine accelerates around the car and rushes home. Feeling uneasy, she tells Wayne that some people were messing with her. She heads to her room for awhile. Later on she sits in the common room and calls Aaron. Telling her he is worried about her, Aaron says he is coming back to stay with her. Justine falls asleep for a short while. All of a sudden, she wakes up feeling as though something is drastically wrong.
Kristy is a little bit of a slasher and a little bit of a survival horror. Is that sort of a spoiler? I don’t think so. Justine is alone on campus. There aren’t exactly a whole bevy of potential victims. A simple read of the film’s description reveals that. The movie presents Justine as a girl attempting to survive against all odds. The group that are hunting her are, evidently, a merciless organisation. Motivated by the desire to kill someone named Kristy. There seems to be a somewhat ritualistic nature to these murders.
Kristy taps into the whole “dark web” phenomenon that has become so popular in the last 10 years. The group appear to be making snuff films and the movie plays on the idea of underground cults. Obviously Justine is not called Kristy so this motivation is somewhat unsatisfying. Used for an “oh shit!” moment of realisation more than anything else. Slasher killers have never needed motives before so it is really not a big deal. All we need to know is that these are some bad dudes and Justine is in trouble.
Moving at a fairly rapid pace, it takes about 20 minutes for things to start going wrong for Justine. As with most slasher movies, once things get going they don’t let up. Expect tense moments, near misses, and a hell of a lot of running. The movie turns around a little at about the half way mark. In an attempt to subvert expectation, Kristy gets creative. Things switch up a bit and some unexpected things happen. It’s fairly interesting but, for the most part, standard slasher fare.
Set at Thanksgiving, this is a very apt movie for our Fall Horror Movie feature. We have holiday references, pumpkin pie, and thanksgiving decorations hung on campus. The entire university has gone home for the holidays leaving Justine completely alone. Whether this is believable or not is up for debate. Apparently Justine is the only student poor enough to have to stay. Her boyfriend drives an expensive land rover but can’t sub her the money for a plane ticket. I guess he is okay with her spending the holiday in abject loneliness. Fuck letting her come home with him for the weekend. She can rattle around in a massive university questioning her romantic decisions instead.
I think it is fair to say that this might be the first sign of Kristy coming undone. Would an entire campus leave during the holiday? I am not sure about that. It feels, to me, like the writer wanted a unique setup regardless of believability. It feels unlikely. Google seems to think it is unlikely too as I can’t find any real stories of this happening. Indeed, the sight of the entire university completely empty is a strange one. It’s an interesting setting, however, and works well for setting up tension and scares.
The abandoned university is an undeniably creepy venue for a horror movie. Completely alone, Justine bounces around the rooms. Lost in the tremendous space. She is almost relishing the novelty of her situation. Justine goes for jogs, skateboards in the empty hallways and swims alone in the massive pool. The flickering lights of the basement set up a quick visual scare but merely hint at what’s to come. Justine feels somewhat insignificant and very vulnerable. Olly Blackburn does a nice job of building a tense atmosphere.
It’s rare that you see a setting like this in a horror movie. It’s intriguing and the opportunities for scares are palpable. Most horror director’s mouths would be watering here. The sheer range of potential ways to scare the viewer is mind blowing. We all know what type of movie this is, as well. You are waiting with baited breath for the moment when everything starts to go wrong. Justine’s trip to the gas station is, initially, uneventful. The streets appear as barren as the university itself. Violet’s menacing presence in the store, however, sets the mood for what is to follow. Although her alternative style is a done to death trope. Her terrible dental hygiene and distant affect are unsettling.
It is a strong first quarter and does a great job of establishing tension. Tightly paced, the movie pulls you in with ease. Despite being full of promise. Sadly, the movie never manages to deliver on what it offers. It isn’t long before it breaks down into your bog standard, garden variety, slasher. Kristy falls foul of every typical problem faced by these genre movies. We also never get the tantalising pay off from the intriguing setting. In fact, it actually becomes something of an albatross.
The potential offered by the first 20 minutes or so, unfortunately, quickly evaporates. The university, despite being a fascinating setting, leads to some painful plot holes. Aside from the aforementioned strangeness of the situation. There is tons of land surrounding it. There is no gate at the entrance to prevent someone entering or leaving on foot. A person could simply exit around the front car barrier if they wanted to. You know, for example, somebody who was being chased by a maniacal cult. Surely the surrounding town would be a better option? Are we really supposed to believe that Justine would prefer to stay on campus?
Scenes that should be scary are all too brief. The carefully established tension is incredibly fleeting. Justine is repeatedly placed into confined rooms that act almost like set pieces. Hide, move, hide move; it is painfully formulaic. Rapidly changing camera shots attempt to scare the viewer. Predictable and uninventive, they actually lead to eye rolling. Boring tropes persist throughout. There is almost an urgency to get through each encounter. For the majority of the movie, Kristy is almost a facsimile of every slasher movie ever made. You have seen this all before.
The final 20 minutes, or so, mix things up a little. The movie becomes something slightly different from most slasher horrors. It’s somewhat predictable and the film hints at the twist fairly early on. Any time a horror movie attempts to mix things up a bit, however, we have to be grateful. Innovation is important and it is easy to get excited when you see something unexpected.
Don’t let that give you the impression that the twist is something inventive, though. Kristy simply welds one horror to another. This isn’t like two halves of a sports car, either. It’s more like a 30 year old Skoda welded to a rusty Corsa. We have more tropes and more predictable moments. They just happen to be from a slightly different type of horror. The slightly better final 20 minutes don’t make up for the previous 60. The majority of the film is a slasher-by-numbers.
Kristy dives into the “dumb protagonist” trope with both feet. Justine, for most of the movie’s length, is horrifically stupid. She does the absolute wrong thing in nearly every situation. I know this is something of a tradition in slasher movies. There is a certain suspension of disbelief required to enjoy them. It seems to be turned up to a ridiculous degree here, however. It is one eye rolling decision after another.
Justine falls asleep in an easily accessible common room. This is seconds after relating her fear to her boyfriend. She absolutely refuses to ever lock a door. Even when she has a set of keys she just won’t do it. She backs herself into dangerous situations and rarely arms herself. Worst of all, she seems physically bound to the university grounds. It’s farcical. At least you will get a nice vocal chord workout as you scream about what a dunce she is.
It doesn’t help that Justine appears to be pursued by some omnipotent demigods. These mother fuckers legitimately teleport. It makes no sense. Universities are huge yet these people traverse it like they are floating. Speaking of floating, they never make any noise unless they want to. They sneak up on Justine as if they were following one step behind her. It pushes the typical slasher formula a bit too far. It’s hard to appreciate the tension. You know for a fact that, like Richard Marx, wherever Justine goes they will be right there waiting for her.
I’ve seen people really rave about Haley Bennett’s portrayal of Justine in this movie. I have to be honest, I don’t get it. Much like Nicole Munoz in Pyewacket, she rarely emotes. Bennet either has a blank expression or is crying. Again, I have to take screenshots for these reviews. It is far more difficult than it should be to find Bennett not pulling the same face. She talks in a muted manner and is incredibly monotone. It takes a fair while for her to show any real emotion. It’s just a very average performance. I am sure Haley Bennett is a decent actor. Her physical performance here definitely deserves mention. She is running all over the place and it must have been draining. I just didn’t buy into the character’s emotional investment in what was happening.
Ashley Greene as Violet is decent. She really puts her back into the moodiness of the role. I enjoyed the creepiness of her line delivery and thought she had the potential to be a scene stealer. Honestly, I would have been happy to see more of her. I wish we could have had a few extra scenes of Mathew St. Patrick as security guard Wayne. He showed bags of promise. James Ransone as groundskeeper Scott is, unfortunately, reduced to a disappointing bit part. Most of the characters are formulaic horror fodder and there is very little meat for the cast to chew on.
Cinematography is, frankly, a bit dull. Closely placed shots bounce around manically. It’s as though they are being filmed by a backpedalling Barney the Dinosaur. The 2.35:1 aspect ratio images look crisp and sharp. The majority of the framing, however, leaves a lot to be desired. The camera hovers around upper chest height for much of the film. This leads to some genuinely awkward moments. One scene, in particular, is noteworthy. The camera is placed so high it fails to capture Aaron reaching into his pocket. For a worrying second there it looks like he is about to whip out his knob in the middle of a car park.
There are some standout moments, though. I enjoyed some of the shots filmed underwater. There are also a few Mothman Prophecies-esque scenes while Justine is driving. These look okay. A few interesting parts here and there don’t make up for a generally uninspired picture. I doubt the movie will stay with you.
Scripting is bad. Lines feel stilted and awkward. Conversations between Justine and Aaron feel particularly unnatural. The sound production makes it seem as though the characters have a mic next to their mouths. Kissing scenes are sure to trigger anyone with misophonia so be warned. Justine and Aaron are one of those “you aren’t really kissing if people can’t hear it in the next room” types. All in all, it is just a boring, forgettable, and sometimes frustrating production.
Kristy is a formulaic, by the numbers, slasher set in an interesting location. Focusing on one girl's fight for survival against a ruthless cult, Kristy starts off tense but never delivers on its promise. The intriguing setting hints at some amazing potential for scares. Sadly, it never reaches said potential and what is left is a boring, uninspired, yawn fest.
Acting, for the most part, is fine. Cinematography is dull and the script is both awkward and very by the numbers. Scares are minimal and an attempt to subvert expectation in the last quarter, despite being welcome, is too little too late. Perhaps worth a watch purely for the location, scenario, and the thanksgiving setting. Slashers are, at the very least, easily digestible so you won't lose much by giving it a shot. Some people may really enjoy its slightly different approach. Seasoned horror vets will find little to enjoy here, however.