Ryan M. Andrews is one of the few filmmakers who comes with fire every time he gets behind the director’s chair. From his first feature Black Eve, to his zombie hit SICK: Survive the Night, to his mind-bending short My Old Man; Andrews is basically making the independent horror genre his bitch…and he’s doing it through hard work and resoundingly creative ideas. It’s been almost two years since I’ve seen new material from him, though, so I was absolutely thrilled when he provided me with a screener of his new feature, Save Yourself. Does Andrews have another hit on his hands? Read my review of Save Yourself to find out!
Save Yourself was written and directed by Ryan M. Andrews with cinematographer Michael Jari Davidson and producers Chris Cull, Pino Halili and Allen Ormerod. Cast members include Tristan Risk (American Mary, The ABC’s of Death 2), Jessica Cameron (Silent Night, Truth or Dare), Ry Barrett (Antisocial, Zombieworld), Tianna Nori, Caleigh Le Grand, Lara Mrkoci, Elma Begovic, Sydney Kondruss, Marcus Haccius, Bea Santos and Bobbie Phillips (Carnival of Souls, Showgirls). Save Yourself follows five horror film workers on a road trip to LA who fall victim to real life terror when they encounter a deranged mad scientist and his family.
Coming off the success of SICK: Survive the Night, Ryan M. Andrews has proven that he’s more than a one trick pony with Save Yourself; another original, thought provoking, terrifying psychological thriller to add to his distinguished resume. Whenever I go into a viewing of his material, I always expect greatness, but I wasn’t expecting Save Yourself to be as good as it is. Absolutely exquisite camera work makes Save Yourself one of the best looking independent feature films in recent memory. It’s certainly good enough to be seen in theaters. Not just film festival screenings, but in an actual release at the box office. So much hard work was poured into this movie that it looks like its budget was a million bucks and that is such an amazing feat going forward without a major studio backing you. Ryan M. Andrews is known for his script-writing skills, but his other talent – putting together such professional behind-the-scenes crews – should also be highlighted. He is absolutely a genius in all areas of filmmaking. My god.
Another crew member I’d love to highlight in this review is casting director Ashley Hallihan, and whoever else she worked with to hand pick the actors in Save Yourself. Caleigh Le Grand, Jessica Cameron, Lara Mrkoci, Tianna Nori and Tristan Risk made up such a strong lead cast it’s mind-boggling. I’m sure that a lot of these lovely, talented ladies had met prior to filming, but I felt such chemistry between them on screen that I was impressed. I felt that they really cared about each other, not just for the sake of the scene, and it made for a much more heart-wrenching feeling when one of them bit it. That’s how you know you succeeded as both a casting associate and as an actor: when you reach a character so deeply that you begin to become them, not just play them. Well done, ladies! So inspiring. I have to say this was a terrific introduction to Le Grand, Mrkoci and Nori and I can’t wait to see them return to the horror genre in the future. I, embarrassingly, am probably the only horror journalist to never have seen American Mary, but I can say that I understand the buzz surrounding Tristan Risk. She’s a beast, in the most respectful way! And for Cameron, I do have to say this was one of her best performances to date.
Being that Save Yourself has just started to move towards release, I am not allowed to divulge certain plot elements in hopes of keeping things a surprise for viewers. This means it’s particularly difficult for me to praise the script as much as I should, but there are still a few things I can say without giving away spoilers. First, psychological horror and gore have never been combined in such a perfect way. Just enough blood, just enough realizations. This is one of those moments when Ryan M. Andrews should feel proud of having a fully actualized, fully self-understanding product that doesn’t try to be anything, it just is a massive success for narrative film. My viewing of Save Yourself flew by and it’s one of the few films where the journey is worthy of the final destination. The underlying theme isn’t as scary as modern concepts. If anything it’s a little out dated, but somehow Andrews was able to take a hidden, dark part of history and make it worthwhile. Many have tried, but few have succeeded in continuing the legacy of terror started by some of the worst men in history. I’ve never seen history bent in such a horrifying, all be-it realistic way.
Save Yourself is jam packed with scream queens and fantastic up-and-comers (especially Barrett and Haccius), twists and turns, stomach turning gore, and tongue-in-cheek nods to horror cliches. It blew my expectations out of the water. Not only will I purchase a copy when it gets a huge distribution deal in the future, but I’m going to recommend it to everyone. Final Score: 10 out of 10!