Don’t Look Back is Incredibly Topical [Review]

Don’t Look Back

Final Destination is one of my favorite modern horror franchises. The concept is almost as inventive as the outrageous death sequences that transpire throughout the series. When I learned that FD scribe Jeffrey Reddick was making his directorial debut with a film called Don’t Look Back, I was instantly curious. What is this flick that finally got Reddick in the director’s chair? And what is it about? 

Related: Final Destination is One of the Most Consistently Enjoyable Horror Franchises–Ever

Well, Don’t Look Back follows a group pf bystanders that fail to help a man being beaten to death. In the wake of their inactivity, several of the onlookers fall victim to what seems like foul play. It quickly begins to seem as though someone or some entity is targeting the witnesses. Perhaps, they are being made to pay penance for standing idly by. 

Among the aforementioned group of bystanders is Caitlin, a young woman whose life was changed by an act of violence. Mere months before the attack to which she has just borne witness, she watched her father die. However, Caitlyn is strong in the face of adversity and almost immediately relatable. 

Jeffrey Reddick (who wrote the screenplay for Don’t Look Back in addition to helming) paints Caitlyn as a resilient. She is a capable protagonist who has seen more than her fair share of trauma. But she manages to persevere in the face of adversity. The hardship she has overcome makes her sympathetic. Though she doesn’t expeditiously spring into action to help the victim of the beating, we still see good in her. And as the storyline unfolds, we learn more about what caused Caitlyn’s lack of response in that pivotal moment.

See Also: “Dissecting Horror” Virtual Panel Series Continues October 28th with the Creatives of Jeffrey Reddick’s New Film!

Further humanizing Caitlyn is an excellent performance from Kourtney Bell. This is Bell’s first starring role in a feature. But she brings the enthusiasm and competence needed to carry a picture. It can’t be easy to have the weight of the entire flick resting on your shoulders your first time out but Bell makes it look easy. And I’m left looking forward to seeing exactly what she does after Don’t Look Back

Dont Look Back - Don’t Look Back is Incredibly Topical [Review]

Still on the subject of Caitlyn, there is an important message in Don’t Look Back about believing women to be found in the film that couldn’t be more timely right now. As a society, we have discredited and disbelieved women for far too long. And I am pleased to say that Reddick’s script addresses that and reminds us to listen when women speak and bestow upon them the same level of respect and credibility to which we would show their male counterparts.  

Also. especially relevant right now is Don’t Look Back‘s message about the importance of not standing idly by and being complacent in a time where action is assuredly needed. 2020 has been a call to action in so many ways and it’s nice to see Reddick driving that point home his first time at the helm of a motion picture. 

Aside from Caitlyn, the other characters in Don’t Look Back are serviceable. Skyler Hart (True Blood) is a bit distracting as Caitlyn’s boyfriend, Josh. He’s often there to encourage Caitlyn to make decisions that enhance the storyline but doesn’t always seem to exist for any reason other than moving the narrative forward. Part of my problem with the Josh character is that Hart’s performance doesn’t quite feel authentic. But I have to put some of the blame for that on a screenplay that seems to use him more as a plot device and less as a three-dimensional character. 

Jeremy Holm is also a little underwhelming as Detective Boyd. His performance isn’t bad. But he is written a bit like every police detective in every horror film. I wish he had been just a bit more nuanced or had somehow broken from the expected.   

There are a couple of other supporting players in the film that don’t quite hit out of the park for similar reasons to those mentioned previously.  But in spite of that, Kourtney Bell really kills it. This is her movie and it is she that we are there to see. 

I commend Reddick for featuring a strong, black, female lead in his film. Horror is a genre that has historically treated people of color as set dressing with dialogue. More inclusive casting and characters that serve as a celebration of strong women are two things we can always use more of. And with that in mind, I recommend that you check out the film on VOD and Digital Download now.

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  • Don't Look Back
3.5

Summary

I commend Reddick for featuring a strong, black, female lead in his film. Horror is a genre that has historically treated people of color as set dressing with dialogue.

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