A colourless, joyless teen high-school horror/thriller for a new generation.
Although a completely different kettle of fish to films like The Faculty, Scream, Carrie, and The Craft, Look Away captures the essence of what made those films popular – tapping into the high-school alienation, outcast troupes – while sprinkling over some of that peculiar dust from The Twilight Zone… and I probably only say that because I recently watched an episode called Nervous Man in a Four Dollar Room which Look Away, whether they know it or not, totally riffs off.
We follow Maria (India Eisley – Underworld Awakening), a teenage loner, an outcast bullied and constantly humiliated at school during the build up to Prom — this is where you really feel the vibes of De Palma’s Carrie, and you’re set; just waiting for everyone to get their comeuppance.
Home life isn’t much better either, in fact, it’s downright awful; a bleak and loveless tomb that would drive any teenager into hysteria, let alone someone like Maria.
She doesn’t eat, doesn’t sleep, her parents – nicely underplayed by Jason Isaacs and Mira Sorvino – are so lost in their own twisted and lonely worlds that every attempt to comfort or help ends in a misplaced effort of self projection, only pushing her further into her own suffocating swamp of sadness…
Up to this point, everything runs smoothly, the plot is fitting together nicely, we’ve had a slow and methodical build up of the characters and their lives, but, unfortunately, it doesn’t stay this grounded or straight laced for long..
During a late night journey of – uh – self discovery in the bathroom, Maria encounters her reflection in the mirror and is offered the chance to switch places with her mirror-image and do all those things, say all those things she would never dream of to the people who’ve wronged her.. Tempting offer, right?
Well, unlike Carrie, whom you can really get behind, who you’re rooting for from the get-go, Look Away doesn’t offer much in terms of likeable or sympathetic characters, but this low budget Canadian production, helmed by Israeli director Assaf Bernstein gets a lot of things right; but at 105 minutes, it does slightly overstay its welcome.
What really carries the film is the chilling performance from India Eisley in her dual-role, switching from a meek and repressed teenager to a cold and vicious killer with skilful ease. All supporting stars do their jobs adequately, keeping everything pinned together nicely. But as we get to the crux, things begin to fall apart, and ambiguity is not your friend here. We’re thrown so many possibilities that are never ironed out, just tossed in, creases and all, and left to fizz-up without ever being opened or explored, subsequently drilling all kinds of plot holes into Look Away’s narrative.
Is it a mental break?
A dead twin?
Is it really happening at all?
We’re asked all these questions during the first quarter, but it takes everything it has been formulating from the start, all the questions it tries to ask you, and brushes aside all thoses intricacies and falls somewhat generically into place for the standard revenge thriller format.
If you manage to not Look Away, you will notice a finely tuned cinematic eye from DOP Pedro Luque (Don’t Breath), but even with the crisp snowy setting the lack of any colour throughout eventually takes its toll on the viewer, and it’s hard to take any joy away from the film.
If I was a teenager, and didn’t already have an abundance of High-School horror movies to call on, this would probably be in my top picks, but with a theme that has been done to death, and in some cases, done a lot more effectively, there are a whole host of other films I’d recommend before coming to this one. Saying that, Look Away is clearly made with a new generation of horror fans in mind and is a passable – if somewhat an unexceptional effort – retelling well known subject matter, and more than likely, Look Away will find its niche audience, and live on as a mid-level cult classic. Laurence Drew