College girl Justine works hard to support herself at Bryce College, where she studies. During Thanksgiving, her boyfriend Aaron goes home and Justine has plans to stay on campus with her roommate, Nicole. Out of the blue, Nicole's father invites her to Aspen, while Justine remains in the dorm. One night, Justine drives to a convenience store to buy supplies and meets Violet, who threatens her. Shaken, Justine returns to campus, where she soon finds herself being hunted down by Violet and three hoodlums from a cult. Justine has to fight to survive. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Taut beginning; almost unravels in cat-and-mouse hi jinx, but still redeems itself
"Kristy" has a young university student, Justine, staying on campus for the Thanksgiving break and forgoing returning home until Christmas. Her rich roommate Nicole, who had originally planned on staying with her, goes to see her family last-minute in Aspen, leaving Justine and the campus security guards alone for the Thanksgiving holiday. After taking a trip to a rural convenience store, Justine runs into a group of young people who seem to want trouble, and upon returning to her empty dorm, finds herself in for one hell of a night.
Maybe it's because I love a good college campus slasher, or maybe it's because I'm a grad student who's about to spend his first Thanksgiving alone (albeit in New York City, not in the backwoods in which this film is situated), but I was completely taken in by this film from the beginning. The premise from the get-go is very straightforward: girl alone on a sprawling rural college campus. What could go wrong?
The film establishes its villains from the beginning in an internet montage which features video and cryptic text from secret message forums, implicating some sort of new age cult committing ritual killings across the country which are then posted on the internet. While this is admittedly disturbing, I honestly found some of the most interesting the scenes to be within the following exposition of the film, in which Justine finds herself at her own wits, entertaining herself and wandering around the empty college campus. The director, Oliver Blackburn, has a stylish way of illustrating her solitude, and there is something relatable and quietly eerie in this first thirty or so minutes of the film; in spite of the fact that nothing ostensibly scary is happening on screen, there is a very ominous and unnerving mood that gets established; this is what really absorbed me most and got me invested.
By the time Justine leaves the campus late in the evening to run to the local convenience store, the audience knows intuitively that her languid Thanksgiving is about to take a wild turn for the absolute worst, and the suspense of it is taut and subtle up to that point. Unfortunately, from there the film begins to temporarily devolve. For having such an understated and ominous exposition, the film is too quick to take the route of a hyperactive thriller, and spends a good thirty minutes devoting itself to flashy cat-and-mouse chase scenes. While some of these are inarguably effective, it is routine and gets old fast. It is not until the last twenty minutes that the film redeems this devolution with an entertaining (albeit also routine) retribution. While all of this is nicely shot and at times startling, I kept thinking to myself how much I missed the subtlety that pervaded the beginning, and in reflection, that was honestly when I was most unnerved.
The acting here is surprisingly above standard, with Haley Bennett as the competent lead. Ashley Greene plays the counterpoint female cultist, with Mathew St. Patrick as the likable security guard and James Ransone making an unexpected minor appearance. The production values are high and I'm honestly surprised this film wound up slipping under the radar as it did. Granted, it's not entirely original (comparisons to "The Strangers" and "Them" are almost unavoidable), but it is a technically well-made film and is far more interesting than any horror film to hit theaters this past fall.
Overall, "Kristy" is a solid film. I especially commend it for building such a stylish and taut exposition—I honestly can say that the first thirty minutes of the film were among the most inexplicably unnerving I've seen in a long time; quietly creepy even though nothing creepy is happening. As I pointed out, the film does take the cat-and-mouse action a bit too far in my opinion and perhaps is too fast to launch into it, but the final act is satisfying and I was able to overlook this because I found the first act so absorbing and enigmatically spooky. 7/10.
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