I jumped at the chance to review Don’t Look Back for two reasons: the underlying theme and the fact that it’s the feature length directorial debut of Jeffrey Reddick. He’s enjoyed a long, wonderful career in the horror genre with writing credits in Final Destination, Return to Cabin by the Lake and Tamara and producer credits in Final Destination 2 and The Night Sitter. As for the theme, it’s an occurrence that was first explained to me in high school with the tragic case of Kitty Genovese. In 1964, a young woman was murdered outside of her apartment building – which took over an hour – and 38 people observed the attack; with no one calling the police because they thought “someone else would get involved.” Writer/director Jeffrey Reddick brings this theme into the modern, digital age by having a group of people witness a fatal assault and the bystanders would rather record the event for social media instead of intervening. A previous of victim of trauma herself, the film’s lead character and the other witnesses soon find themselves being picked off one by one by someone or something out for revenge. This title, from Kamikaze Dogfight, Hood River Entertainment, Title Media and Storyteller Media, is releasing in theaters and on demand starting October 16th 2020.
I honestly have only one complaint in regards to Don’t Look Back, so I’m going to jump into that first before highlighting everything I enjoyed. After many years in the horror business, writer/director Jeffrey Reddick should know that building a believable atmosphere and palpable suspense is a must have in fleshing out a genuine scary movie. I’m sorry to say that Don’t Look Back has none of these two crucial elements, and comes off more like a riskier Lifetime movie. Everything is just too bright and perfect; coupled with the fact that almost all of the death sequences happen off screen with the dead bodies being found afterwards. I want the terror. I want the suspense. I want the gore. I want the feeling of “what if this happened to me?” Even though it’s no easy measure, it’s still possible to scare an audience in 2020 if all the right pieces are in place. Don’t Look Back features cinematography by Andy Steinman and editing by Mike Mendez & Erik Rosenbluh. Produced by Roman Dent, Ashleigh Snead, Andrew van den Houten and Andy Steinman with co-producers Cedric Chabloz and Kristin Holt, Don’t Look Back missed the mark in feeling like a macabre nightmare but looks polished and professional enough to triumph over other independent flicks in its demographic.
Kourtney Bell, Bryan Batt, Will Stout, Skyler Hart, Jeremy Holm, Jaqueline Fleming, Amanda Grace Benitzes, Damnon Lipari and Han Soto star in Don’t Look Back. While each cast member did a stellar job with their portrayals, I want to take a moment to highlight Kourtney Bell. Even though movies like Get Out, Us, The Intruders and Breaking In are pushing unique, black characters into horror film, there’s still a long way to go. White skin. Black skin. Purple skin. If someone or something is out for blood, it doesn’t care what race you are! I’m thrilled that Don’t Look Back cast a black actress as the lead because it’s the type of representation we want and they deserve. What’s better yet is the fact that Kourtney Bell did a fantastic job as Caitlyn, bouncing between hopeful, delicate, scared and powerful so precisely. She was certainly the right woman for the job. Paired with the theme I mentioned above, this movie becomes a different beast entirely and mutates to a conversational piece so beautifully. It’s not often that a horror flick makes you stop and think about an array of different things – like themes, psychological elements and diversity – but when it does, make sure you stop and ponder. This October, let Don’t Look Back give you something to talk about.
Despite my one critique earlier, there is so much to enjoy here. I loved the representation of the crow/raven (I don’t know birds…), and its inclusion in the narrative gave Don’t Look Back the slightest hint of old school nostalgia. I loved the eerie scores and backing songs that try and push the scenes to the next level. But, mostly, I loved the drama and the psychological tidbits worked into the script. I mean, what’s worse than the real life brutality humans do to each other on a daily basis? This plot point had me hooked from the start and completely unable to look away. While Don’t Look Back is low on gore and atmosphere, it’s above average in every other department. It’s going to be a highlight on every cast/crew member’s resume and a worthy addition to your Halloween viewing lists. It may not be for everyone because it’s not an in your face horror film, but people who enjoy a rich, twisted story are going to love it just as much as I did. Don’t Look Back is intriguing, daunting and a stark parallel of human madness. Final Score: 8 out of 10.