Directed by: William Dickerson
Starring: Kate Burton, Cassidy Freeman, Lucy Griffiths, Roddy Piper, Tyler Jacob Moore
This film plays on elevating levels of the human mind, and takes the psychological thriller to a sharp peak. I didn’t have any prior knowledge of what this film was about, story or genre wise, so found it pleasantly interesting to sit back and watch the drama unfold. It has moments of slower pacing, and perhaps the typical thriller twist is too perplexing, but I cannot deny that all the juicy storytelling beforehand is worth the ride.
Don’t Look Back tells the story of a novelist named Nora (Griffiths) struggling to pen her latest whilst moving into her recently passed away grandmother's property. This new place takes her back to her past and sees her coming across faces from years gone by. The true drama starts beginning to take effect as Nora lets a female stranger into her house as a roommate. This odd Peyton figure (Freeman) could make Nora's trip down memory lane even more troubling.
Director William Dickerson does a good job here in letting the suspense of this dark thriller breathe. It can at times feel slow, especially in the opening act, which makes it hard to keep engaged, but once the suspicions of the Peyton character come to correct fruition, the movie amps up a gear or two. Dickerson also helped script the film, and it is a very thick plot with characters' pasts and present situations all layering together to craft a worrying sense of dread and darkness throughout. The ending could lose a few people though, and I fear the climax is written a tad too much in thinking of the biggest U-turn possible; also it’s one that people might see coming. All in all, I believe the latter stages of this story are ones to divide and be liked or disliked.
There’s no dislike from me towards the two female leads though, who strongly become the characters they play. They’re not boring two dimensional weak thriller femme fatales, but in fact the pair of them are feisty, interesting women, and Griffiths and Freeman get under the skin of Nora and Peyton, making you believe they exist. It’s a punchy double act that seesaws between being cute and friendly to shocking and brooding. There’s a clear set up of sexual tension built up from the outset, which does get explored to a degree, but that pushed aside leaves for a more drastic exploration of these two women and identity. Griffiths fluctuates between weepy and dominating in differing scenes and plays the writer's block suffering Nora really well. Her dynamic and interaction with Freeman's cool and creepily played Peyton are the highlights, as you start to see this housemate relationship begin to fracture and strain. The outcome of their characters twists and turns into slight horror movie territory, helping spoon a necessary fresh dollop of intrigue and excitement into the film for the final act.
There’s fantastic music that bubbles away like a simmering pan on the boil, which is of course necessary for a thriller film. Without the right music, the tension would fall flat, and all atmosphere would be non-existent. Mj Mynarski heads up the music and credit to him for a job well done. This moody score works lovely with the cinematography by Robert Kraetsch, who definitely has an eye for capturing beauty and danger in equal measure. The slow motion cascading of popsicle sticks is a stand out moment, and the use of Peyton’s camera becomes a neat little tool. Back to the grander scale of cinematography, the woody location and the new house for Nora are suitably atmospheric for the thriller genre.
I really have nothing but praise for the actresses involved and the sounds and sights of the film; it just felt a little slow to begin with, and the near ending reveal felt stretched too far, leaving me befuddled and questioning the enjoyment I had with the movie before that point.
By Troy Balmayer