Suspension

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“The night HE came home…”

Bullied by her peers at high school, Emily (MacNevin) takes refuge in drawing. Although, rather than high art, her preferred method of expression is horror comics: working on these in class is what gets her the titular punishment, imposed by a disapproving teacher. Emily’s strip depicts the havoc wreaked by a serial killer – who might (or might not) be inspired by her absent father. However, the line between imagination and reality becomes blurred, and on the night of a student party to which Emily has not been invited, someone starts stalking and murdering those who have tormented her. Looks like Daddy is out, and protecting his little girl – or, is he?

Oh, what the hell: when the sleeve (right) can’t even be bothered to avoid a major spoiler, why should I? Turns out Emily’s mind has snapped entirely, and she’s actually responsible for all the deaths. Otherwise, as my tag-line suggests, there’s more than a little of Halloween here, not least in the look of the killer, whose bland, white mask is more than an echo of the one famously worn by Michael Myers. Indeed, this feels as much of a homage to the slasher films of that era as anything; that’s likely the charitable way to view it, at least, since the supporting characters, situations and even specific kills contain little in the way of originality.

The most interesting thing is likely the effort put into fully developing Emily’s graphic art, beginning with the highly-stylized opening credit sequence. From here, it moves into a female masked killer – I’m guessing, intended to represent Emily’s idealized version of herself – who captures, tortures and dispatches other killers, recording it all on film. It’s a shame this angle isn’t sustained for, to be honest, it’s a good deal more imaginative and possesses a lot more potential, than the rehashed tribute to 80’s horror into which this quickly devolves.

It’s both too much, and not enough – the comic story occupies excessive screen-time in the first half, which could have gone to better development of the “real life” characters or setting. On the other hand, it could also have danced for longer along the line between Emily’s fantasies and reality. Instead, it occupies a mediocre middle, with only one plot element which surprised me – and it was almost a sidelight, not anything to do with Emily’s desire for ultra-violent revenge on her peers. MacNevin isn’t bad in the role; she has a nice, “everygirl” quality about her that generates empathy, along with the devotion she shows to her apparently mute kid brother.

The gore is plentiful enough, and Lando (veteran of many a shaky SyFy Original Movie) has a decent enough eye. The problem is mostly the script, hampered by its apparent unwillingness to commit to being one thing or the other. The result is not a slasher, nor a psychological exploration of homicidal imagination, and instead is a half-baked combo, which satisfies as neither. 

Dir: Jeffery Scott Lando
Star: Ellen MacNevin, Taylor Russell, Courtney Paige, Steve Richmond