“Don’t Look Away” is a homerun horror that delivers plenty of fun and frights, along with a unique and chilling monster worthy of a franchise.
Sure, there are those who prefer their horror cosmic. A vast, unknowable evil, a mind-shredding, alien world, a leviathan rising from the deep, heralding the final days of Man.
But we’ve never needed an apocalyptic world-eater to make our blood run cold.
Horror can be created from all kinds of things. A family dog, A child’s toy. These monsters are more subtle. Some of them don’t even have to move to move in for the kill.
In DON’T LOOK AWAY, an engaging cinematic style combines with a classic premise to create a ghoulishly good monster — right out of your friendly neighborhood storefront.
Don’t Look Away starts off with a bang. A truck carrying a mysterious crate gets carjacked. The thieves, clearly not having heard any urban legends, approach the mysterious crate and pry it open. The carnage that ensues has the lone survivor fleeing into the street to be immediately flattened by our heroine, Frankie (Kellie Bastard).
In the rearview mirror, Frankie glimpses a shape straight from the uncanny valley but is too shaken by the accident to think much further. That is, until the figure starts to appear wherever she goes, leaving inexplicable carnage in its wake.
Soon, her friends begin seeing it as well, and it is revealed that the figure is an evil mannequin, complete with sunken, glowering eyes and a joker smile. It never moves, but take your eyes off it, and you’re done for.
Frankie and her friends struggle to fight an evil that can’t be destroyed, even as Frankie’s boyfriend succumbs to demonic whispers of anger and betrayal.
In less capable hands, Don’t Look Away could have been trite, but director Micheal Bafaro uses a consistently shallow depth of field to keep us guessing at the face of the monster until we’re panting for it.
Once it IS revealed, the mannequin face does not disappoint (If there is any justice, I’ll be seeing knockoff Mannequin masks for sale at next year’s Spirit Halloween).
Another standout character is the mysterious Victor Malik, a wizened, milky-eyed, haggard old man with a grave duty to perform. Once again, Bafaro nails that LOOK of the spookiest shit you’ve ever seen, at once iconic and original.
Bafaro’s bold use of color in these characterizations and throughout the film set the tone perfectly.
This is the kind of horror movie that is FUN. This is the kind of horror that underscores its influences so you don’t miss them, tipping the hat to familiar classics as it hacks and slashes towards its denouement.
And while we’ve certainly seen this kind of entity before (Dr. Who’s weeping angels spring to mind), the film’s style and execution put Don’t Look Away in its own sphere, creating a monster that merits its own slew of sequels.
Don’t Look Away in space, anyone?