Well-paced and intense, “You’re Killing Me” is a nasty, twisty little teen thriller that isn’t afraid to go to dark places.
As You’re Killing Me begins, a student at a prestigious prep school, Melissa Brown (Kalli Tehranae), has gone missing, and police suspect foul play. As tragic as that is, the teens at Torrington Prep have more important things on their minds — like college and parties.
As for the highly ambitious scholarship student Eden Murphy (McKaley Miller), she’s laser-focused on both. She hopes attending one party, in particular, might help her get off the waitlist and into the college of her dreams. The party in question is an epic affair being hosted by the school’s most elite student, Barrett Schroder (Brice Anthony Heller).
His “Heaven and Hell” party is a legendary annual tradition held at his family’s stately estate.
Barret’s dad is an influential Congressman, and Eden hopes to get in good graces with the Schroders, knowing a letter of recommendation from the Congressman will surely cinch her acceptance to Pennbrook.
Though she isn’t invited to the party, being one of the few students at Torrington who doesn’t come from money or travel in elite social circles, Eden decides to crash the event.
Once there, she hopes she can charm Barret so he’ll introduce her to his influential father. She convinces her best friend Zara (Keyara Milliner) to come with her. Zara protests strongly, but Eden assures her it’s the only way to ensure they can attend Pennbrook together since Zara has already been accepted.
At first, Eden seems like a young woman who will do anything and everything to accomplish her goals, including using a classmate for his clout and disregarding her friend’s feelings.
However, as the events of the night unfold, Eden’s moral code is challenged, and she has to show what she’s really made of.
As the girls enter the party, Barret’s girlfriend Kendra (Morgana Van Peebles) insists they put their phones in a lock box to avoid compromising social media posts, given the elder Schroder’s high-profile position.
Zara is miserable being there, and Eden promises they can leave as soon as she can spend quality time with Barret. To help facilitate this and speed up the process, Zara agrees to distract Barret’s best friend, Gooch (Wil Deusner). She asks Gooch to make her a drink, and he mixes up a dangerous concoction that quickly gets her highly intoxicated.
Not ready to leave, Eden takes Zara upstairs and lays her down in the bedroom of Mr. and Mrs. Schroder.
After she heads back downstairs, Gooch enters the room to take creepy pictures of the passed-out Zara so he can post about her being his girlfriend. But when Eden catches him in the room, he gets flustered and rushes out, leaving his phone behind.
The unlocked, non-password-protected phone is still open to the photos of Zara, and a concerned Eden picks it up to go through them.
As she’s scrolling, she comes across a photo of the missing girl, Melissa.
And then there’s an alarming video that shows Barret, Gooch, and Kendra with Melissa on the day of her disappearance. The three friends are taunting the shy girl, who appears very uncomfortable. But before Eden can see what happens next, the phone battery dies, and Eden frantically looks for a charger.
When Gooch figures out Eden has his phone, he freaks out and tells Barret, whose reaction to this news makes it clear there’s something on the phone he doesn’t want Eden to see.
Barret knocks on the bedroom door and asks to come in, but Eden refuses to let him. She then reveals she’s seen the video and demands a charger so she can watch through to the end. Barret immediately sends all the party guests home, and Eden realizes she is alone with someone who could be quite dangerous.
From here, we get an extremely tense, rapidly escalating showdown between the headstrong Eden, determined to figure out what happened to Melissa, and a ferociously ruthless Barret, who will stop at nothing to keep their secret from getting out.
Directed by Beth Hann and Jerren Lauder and written by Walker Hare and Brad Martocello, You’re Killing Me isn’t a mystery thriller.
It’s clear from the get-go that Barret and his cronies are complicit in something nefarious. And while we don’t exactly know the extent of their crimes, these are three teens who have something to hide and consider Eden a significant threat.What YOU'RE KILLING ME delivers is a white-knuckle cat-and-mouse chiller that plays like a reverse home invasion horror in which two girls have entered a home they may be unable to leave. Click To Tweet
It’s relentless terror as Eden and Zara are held hostage by the menacing Barret and his accomplices, unable to escape until they relinquish the phone. But by giving up the evidence, they know Melissa’s family will never get the answers or peace they deserve, and some rich kids will likely get away with murder.
At one point, Barret’s parents enter the picture and play a pivotal role in the narrative arc. Barret’s dad is played by the always-excellent Dermot Mulroney, who’s becoming somewhat of a genre staple, most recently appearing in Scream VI.
Mrs. Schroder is played by the late, very talented actress Anne Heche in one of her final roles. Though she has limited screen time, she adds considerable heft and dramatic intrigue to the proceedings, and she’ll make you mournful we didn’t get to see her chew the scenery in more horror films.
While the parents exude star-quality magnetism, most of the film’s effectiveness hinges on the performances of the teen cast.
The great news is they are all quite capable. But the real standouts are Heller and Miller.
The former is a wholly convincing villain — a revoltingly privileged rich kid who wields dangerous power and influence and lacks a moral compass. He appears threatening even before he truly unleashes his inner beast. And as the stakes and tensions escalate, he commands the screen as a formidable threat.
As his foil, Miller (Ma) is a force to be reckoned with. She’s strong, fearlessly determined, intelligent, and so guided by her sense of what’s right that she refuses to back down no matter how precarious her situation becomes. She delivers a powerful, emotional performance and handily invests the audience in her plight while ably conveying pain and fear.
You’re Killing Me is a rather bleak, mean-spirited affair, and I mean that as a compliment.
It does a great job exploiting universally understood truths about the class divide, narcissistic trust fund babies, and the infuriating entitlement of the rich and powerful.
However, it’s not without some cracks in the veneer.
To fully enjoy this film as it’s meant to be experienced, you’ll have to suspend a bit of your critical thinking; several plot points don’t hold up to scrutiny, and many key moments are dependent on too-perfect coincidences or very odd choices. Fortunately, it’s not too hard to let these quibbles go, given how engaging, fast-paced, and surprisingly sinister it is.
Much of what transpires is pretty predictable, but that doesn’t stop it from being wildly fun.
The ending may not be to everyone’s taste, but I appreciated the film’s dark edge and uncompromising cruelty.
And I love that it wasn’t afraid to leave some loose ends untied, as nothing in life is ever as simple as the movies have us believe. Complicated choices result in complicated consequences. Morality is rarely black and white, and righteousness isn’t always rewarded.
This is the kind of movie that will make you question the choices you might make in a similar situation. And by the end, you may be questioning your own moral compass.
Making effective use of its primarily single-location setting and creating a claustrophobic, tension-fueled nightmare that never lets up, You’re Killing Me is an engaging teen horror/survival thriller that is worth adding to your watch list.