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Review: Don’t Look Back (2020)

What would you do if you saw someone being assaulted? Intervene? Walk away and do nothing? Grab your phone and call for help? Or grab your phone and film it? Don’t Look Back, from writer/director Jeffrey Reddick (Final Destination, The Final Wish) suggests that the most dangerous course of action might not be the one you think.

Caitlin (Kourtney Bell) saw her father killed during a home invasion on her birthday. She was pronounced dead but revived. Nine months later she’s in therapy with Dr. Bolin (Katelyn Pearce, Porno, Catskill Park) and making progress. Until she goes for a jog and ends up one of several witnesses to a fatal assault. Nobody tries to intervene.

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The crime sets off a media frenzy, with much of the anger aimed at the witnesses. One of them dies under mysterious circumstances. Caitlin is plagued with hallucinations and other odd phenomena. When the victim’s brother Lucas (Will Stout, The Barn) releases the names of the witnesses to the public and another one dies, Caitlin is forced to find out who, or what, is responsible.

Filmed as The Good Samaritan and based on Reddick’s short of the same name, Don’t Look Back is his feature as a director. While he’s never written anything that rivalled the first two Final Destination films, his other writing credits have, apart from Day of the Dead, all been at least good. And that was at least amusing, if for all the wrong reasons. So it was an unpleasant surprise to find that this is such a preachy, heavy-handed and dull film.

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Almost from the start, Don’t Look Back misfires. The killer is a large, insane-looking man. None of the witnesses are close to his size, you wouldn’t expect them to get in the middle of that. Especially considering the chances of him being armed. Certainly, there’s no excuse for Nathan (Stephen Twardokus, The Mutilation Man, An American Ghost Story) who records it rather than calling the police. Or Tony (Han Soto, Body Cam) with his “I could have taken him but…” bullshit. But I can’t blame any of them for not trying to take him on.

The problem is compounded by dialogue that is relentlessly ham-fisted and unrealistic. Much of the conversations about the crime sound like excerpts from a politician’s “Law and Order” speech, rather than actual people talking.

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Unfortunately, the film’s horror elements don’t fare much better. Don’t Look Back has some effective moments, but they’re lost in a sea of clichés. The supportive boyfriend (Skyler Hart, 1313: Bermuda Triangle, 1313: Actor Slash Model). Caitlin always being there when someone dies. Detective Boyd (Jeremy Holm, The Ranger, The Block Island Sound) becomes suspicious when people keep dying around our heroine. The crow appears everywhere, including the film’s poster.

But there are none of the OTT deaths from Final Destination. There’s none of the energy, either. Don’t Look Back just plods along to an underwhelming but not unexpected explanation and climax. And that comes with an annoyingly in your face religious message on top of everything else. The attempt to shake things up with a final twist just makes it all worse. Another film I was anticipating turns out to be one of the year’s big disappointments.

Kamikaze Dogfight and Gravitas Ventures will debut Don’t Look Back in select theatres and on VOD starting October 16th.

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