Director: William Dickerson
MPAA Rating: NR
In his latest feature-length effort, Don’t Look Back, director William Dickerson sets out to create a De Palma-esque psychological thriller that aims to keep the viewer guessing while exploring the lasting effects of a childhood trauma. While some aspects of the film do work well, mostly the cinematography, the end result is a tired and formulaic retread of things we’ve seen before.
The film stars True Blood’s Lucy Griffiths as Nora, an accomplished author who returns to her childhood home after the death of her grandmother. She inherits the house and decides to use this as an opportunity to work on her next novel, utilizing the solitude the remote cabin offers. After a chance encounter with a woman named Peyton, played by Cassidy Freeman, Nora offers to rent out a room in the house to her, and the two quickly become friends.
All is not as it seems with Peyton, however, as her obsessive, violent and reckless behavior begins to boil to the surface. Has Nora unwittingly allowed a killer into her home or is there more to Peyton’s story than what meets the eye?
The difficult part in writing about this film is that its biggest downfall also happens to be a fairly large spoiler. The surprise twist in Don’t Look Back is something that can be seen a mile away, and although I knew it was coming, I still didn’t want it to go there. Despite the fairly mediocre performances, the ominous tone of the film kept me interested, and I hoped that it would zig when I expected it to zag. Unfortunately, it zagged all over the place, essentially stripping away any semblance of something unique.
What’s more disappointing about this plot twist is that the film is actually looks quite good visually. It does feel like an early De Palma movie, and there are several artistic flourishes with the camerawork that add a great deal to the mood of what’s unfolding in Nora’s life. This culminates in a deft shot at the end of the film with the camera pulling back through the entire house.
After the big reveal there’s a short sequence that ties up many of the loose ends and explains the cause of everything, which almost redeemed the preceding events, however it wasn’t enough to bring me back on board.
Don’t Look Back is a film that simply came out too late. If this was released, say, prior to 1999, it would feel like something fresh, but by today’s standards, everything feels played out. Those who can look past the tropes will find value in the journey, and it does go to some interesting places visually. So for those of you looking to get a classic De Palma fix, Don’t Look Back might be worth checking out.