Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Show and Tell: Kristy


A lot of people bemoan the lack of original ideas in movies today, particularly in horror.  It's hard to blame them given the deluge of remakes, sequels, and rip-offs flooding the genre.  The issue, though, is that there are only so different stories to be told out there, especially in the realm of horror.  Often, it's some variation one entity wanting to kill another entity.  Now sometimes, there are truly groundbreaking ways to tell that story.  But often, the trick isn't telling an original story as it is about telling that story well.  Such is the case for the 2014 horror-thriller Kristy.

Released in 2014 and directed by Oliver Blackburn, Kristy tells the story of Justine (Haley Bennett), a college student who can't afford to travel home for Thanksgiving so opts to stay alone at the campus through the holiday break. Soon, she finds herself stalked by a group of strangers who refer to her as "Kristy," pseudonym that they give to targets who they see as close to Christ and goodness. Led by Violet (Ashley Greene), they continue to hunt Justine while killing anyone who comes to her aid.

Kristy is a perfect example of a bland premise that could have resulted in a bland movie.  In fact, I wasn't sure I was going to dig it at all based on the opening scene, where we see a montage of masked killers taking down a variety of gene victims in ways that didn't promise anything unique.

But then I noticed details that intrigued me, the first of which was the use of a college campus during holiday break to convey a sense of isolation.  For anyone who has been on a college campus for even a few hours after any kind of extended break starts, you know that it quickly turns into a ghost town.  And many colleges outside of a city setting are placed firmly in the middle of nowhere, so it becomes plausible to take an otherwise mundane venue and turn it into something sinister.


Another interesting approach taken in Kristy was in how it made me care for its protagonist.  Justine was developed well enough in the opening scenes, but how they really made me root for her was to make Violet and her gang so damn unlikable that by the end of the movie I was begging for Justine to kill them.

Of course, villains need to be unlikable on some level.  They are, after all, the bad guys.  But most of the great villains have something that attracts the audience to them.  Freddy Krueger brings his dark humor.  Pinhead is as sophisticated a monster as you're likely to meet.  But Violet and her band of killers are more like what would happen if the emo kids from your high school got extra high one day while listening to a Disturbed CD and decided to go on a killing spree.

It's a dangerous game to portray such annoying villains, as you risk taking the audience out of the movie.  But Kristy did a good job at sneaking up to that line without ever quite crossing it, building a slow burn of tension (born both of fear and irritation) until they take a turn at the end of the movie which I won't give away here, but I will say left me cheering as the credit rolled.


While Kristy won't be shattering anyone's view of the horror genre, it's still a very effective movie, made all the more effective by the fact there was little to no fanfare preceding it that would have influenced my expectations for it to be either good or bad.  It's the type of movie that makes the case for checking out those movies on Netflix that you'd never considered before.  Sometimes you'll find something that will surprise you.



2 comments:

  1. We actually saw this in England and really dug it. The pool scene in particular. Not sure if I was ever truly scared (the dorm hall sequence did have my love completely creeped out.) But it was a helluva ride and way better than The Purge. More like the serious version of You're Next

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  2. Good call on the comparison to You're Next. Especially after Justine pulls her shit together and starts picking off her stalkers. It's a great watch for sure.

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