Friday, September 16, 2016

Kristy


   The slasher/thriller genre can get pretty stale every now and then, but then a movie like Kristy comes along and reminds everyone why the genre just fucking works. First surprise, the heroine's name isn't Kristy. It's actually Justine. I know right? That's not really a spoiler by the way, but make no mistake, the name Kristy does very much come into play. The title might be a bit misleading, but in a fun way. The movie is a treat for genre fans, and a decent thriller for moviegoers in the mood for this sort of thing.

   Anyways, the movie lets you get to know Justine. It gives you a concise layout of her life, such as it is. It also sticks to relevant information. We don't need to know if her twice removed uncle on her mother's side has cancer. I hate it when horror movies take these epic detours to try and get you to relate to the main character. It's painstaking, belabored and ultimately pointless. Justine is a fairly average girl. She isn't saddled with some extraordinary skill like some Final Girls are. She's not a savant at gymnastics, she doesn't inexplicably own a katana or something. She's just a college girl who's trying to get through Thanksgiving weekend alone in her dorm.

   She tries to keep herself entertained as best as possible for a while, in what has got to be one of the cutest and most fun montages I've ever seen in a horror movie, and then she decides to make a snack run. She ends up running into a freaky girl at the convenience shop and that kicks off a night of horrors that she never expected. Before we ever meet Justine, the movie's opening and it's opening credits, show us a bit about a mysterious murder cult that's coordinated through a website or something. It feels like something from one of those satanic cult scare flicks from the 80's, but obviously updated to nowadays.

   If I've any caveat about this approach, it's that the satanic internet cult is never really fleshed out. They're scary, and the concept is fantastic, but... why? Why do they do this? We've only got the most basic sense of motivation behind these killers, and to a larger extent, the cult itself. This is in no small way the most original and interesting part of the movie, and it's unfortunate that it's also so anemic. The villains are largely interchangeable, not just with each other, but with any villains of the genre, period. It's made worse by the fact that the quartet of killers frequently to the Jason Voorhees/Michael Myers thing. They can follow the heroine without really running, show up behind her when there's no physical way they could've ever caught up to her. It's annoying.

   Having said that, the lack of exposition, explanation and motivation surrounding the villains also lends itself to a creepiness that I just can't put my finger on. Since the story is largely told exclusively from Justine's perspective, it makes a kind of sense that we'd only know as much as her. Fair enough. She's also a hell of protagonist. The actress, Haley Bennett is super easy on the eyes, and she shows off some serious acting chops here. This genre also has a tendency to cast looks before talent, but Bennett is both. Which is important because the entire movie is like, on her shoulders. No other character gets more than a couple minutes of screentime. The movie is with Justine, constantly.

   It Bennett couldn't carry the movie, it would've been a serious dud. Just another boring filler-flick to pad out the digital shelves of Netflix's movie library.  Instead, Bennett shoulders the whole movie like a freakin' pro, and delivers a hell of a performance that outshines any other shortcomings the movie has. Her character, Justine, is smart and brave, but without being ridiculously so. She uses her brain, and she's always on the move, but that doesn't mean she's not scared for her life, obviously. On the flip side of this, the protagonist from As Above So Below comes to mind. A goddamn superwoman who's skilled in just about everything you can be skilled in. She made for a boring protagonist, but Justine did not.

   There's a style to Kristy that sets it apart. It's lean, focused, and knows how to build tension and suspense. It's not incredibly original, and it's not an absolute must-see, but it's really good nevertheless. It had me engrossed from start to finish, and honestly? I'd love to see a sequel. I know it's unlikely, but it would be cool. Haley Bennett needs to be in more stuff, that's just a fact right now. She was great in Hardcore Henry, and she was great here. But, can we please get a Kristy Returns or something? Bennett was one of the coolest final girls in recent memory, and that's saying something. Again, the movie isn't overly special, and it's not a destined genre classic, but it does everything right. It sticks to a workable formula and really freakin' delivers.

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