Most of the time, when someone hands you an advance screener, the end result is that you want to throw it back at them with the intention of causing at least minimally annoying eye damage. At worst, you hope for a permanent cornea injury that will forever remind them of the pain they inflicted on you. Occasionally though, if you're lucky, you get an under-the-radar gem that absolutely shocks you. And this is the case with Random, which was recently made available to me by way of a very confidential informant. However, before I share my review, I want to explain why odds are, you have never heard a thing about this film.
Random, previously known as Kristy, and before that, Satanic, was slated to be released in 2013. It stars Haley Bennett who I only recognized from the disastrous The Haunting of Molly Hartley, as well as Twilight's Ashley Greene. Now, as a huge fan of Rachelle LaFevre, I am not one to dismiss an actor just because they are attached to the whiney vampire franchise. But the fact is very few of the Twilight veterans have gone on to prove themselves, either in talent or box office take.
At this point you're probably asking, how the hell does this relate?
Random, which is a property of The Weinstein Company, has yet to be released in North America, with no release date on the horizon (though it apparently HAS been released in Germany). What I don't know is if this is because the film doesn't star anyone highly bankable, if the subject matter is considered too timely (though since when has that stopped a production company), or if it is because TWC thinks Ashley Greene might actually drive the film's target audience away. Whatever the reason, it's a damn shame, because Random is one of the best horror films I've seen in ages, and it absolutely deserves to be seen.
The Plot: Left completely alone on her elite college campus over Thanksgiving break, FAFSA student Justine plans on using her holiday to study. Instead, a chance run in with a strange girl at a convenience store leads to a night of hell as Justine fights for her life against a gang of masked psychos who keep calling her "Kristy." Class, privilege, media, voyeur culture, and violence are all questioned in Oliver Blackburn's Random.
My first thought as I watched this movie was that it reminded me SO much in tone of The House of the Devil. The entire first 30 minutes of Random are spent establishing a connection to Justine, which is something we rarely get in a horror movie these days. Because so much time is spent connecting us to our heroine, we are even more engaged when shit goes down and frankly, just like Ti West's House, my heart was beating a mile a minute the whole time.
Much to my surprise, the cast of Random grounded this film in its slow-burn sense of tension. Haley Bennett is a revelation, all steely resolve when necessary and justified fear in the right places. I was blown away by her skills as both a horror actress and a leading lady. And I have to give equal credit to Greene as "Violet," the lone women in the gang of murderers. She is genuinely dead-eyed and terrifying, without ever raising her voice or over-acting. I think she may have found her calling in a future as a villain.
There are a dozen comparisons you could make between Random and any number of home invasion or "fight for survival" films, but there is something inherently different in the feel of this film. Perhaps it is in the vast nature of the college campus setting or maybe it has to do with the fact that most of us have experienced the feeling of isolation while away at school. But I didn't feel like there was a single false misstep in any moment of Random: not the direction, script, or action.
Rating: 4 and 3/4 Tin Foil Masks out of 5