UK Release Date – TBC
High-school girls going missing under suspicious circumstances, cryptic final words from dying fathers, and children tragically being by killed by house fires. What’s it all about you ask? Well some answers may await a strung out pill popping detective in this mixture of mystery thriller and psychological horror. Whether the answers really make any any sense and if the threads all tie up satisfactorily at the end, well that’s another matter entirely I’m afraid. Like many other stories in this vein there’s a small town hiding a dark secret, with various oddball characters trying to help or hinder the protagonist. But in the end this kind of material is all for nothing if the structure is a mess and the pieces don’t ever quite fit together properly.
Sam (Nicola Correia-Damude) returns to her home town after a call from her Uncle Rupert (Michael Ironside). After a long illness her father’s situation has taken a turn for the worst, although she doesn’t seem that broken up about it. In fact the whole re-union is very fractious and her awkward hug with Rupert at the hospital tells of a troubled family history in one simple moment. Along with the visions of her daughter being killed in a house fire and all the extreme close ups of Valium bottles things are not exactly going well for her. These two lead performances and all the little details are the strongest parts of the film, offering plenty of subtle storytelling moments. However as things get more mysterious it all starts to fall apart.
Despite being in a coma her father Joe (Andre Bussieres) has one last jump scare in him, and after Sam sees a strange masked figure in the hospital room he suddenly gasps ‘Katie Owens!’ before giving up the ghost. This sets her on the trail of clues regarding the disappearance of Katie, someone who vanished soon after she had a falling out with Sam over a boy at a dance nine years ago. There are a lot of repetitious flashbacks as Sam thinks over that night, and there are various attempts to make actors look older when she catches back up with them. Some more successful than others. But what might have been a tale of teenage rivalry and old grudges soon becomes more outlandish as she uncovers more information.
How she’s actually allowed any involvement in this investigation at all is pretty vague, and Rupert seems to be doing this as a favour to his niece for some reason. Later he tells her to stop poking around in open cases, but what was the local police department actually doing about it? It’s never clear. In fact Sam’s role and even her rank as a detective back in the ‘big city’ is never really established. The first evidence that she’s even a cop is the gun she hides under her pillow at a motel, and it’s never brought up openly with Rupert or with the owner of the motel who asks for identification. It’s all very weird and muddled in terms of both standard procedural drama tropes and the general pacing of the story.
Things don’t get any better when Sam finds a spooky occult book in the police evidence room (which she’s just allowed to take with other files for some reason) and in a laughable scene she searches for a local expert on the internet. Which is how she does most of her investigating (for some reason). A strange symbol starts to crop up, which is first introduced by taxidermist and maths conspiracy nut Professor Freeborn (Yannick Bisson) who is a real character in this movie. After a long rambling diatribe about the number nine he lays down a bunch of ideas which are supposed to feel profound when the final twist in the story comes along. But instead this is all pretty nonsensical.
If only the creepy secret organisation plot was the central thread, but there’s also a lot of other extraneous material about Rupert, Joe and Katie’s father working as prison guards. It’s less a mystery Sam has to uncover, and more of a series of things that she’s told. In a way this is just to make Rupert seem like a creep as she hears about suspicious deaths and drug deals at the prison, but even the red herrings feel awkward as Sam visits more of her old friends and starts to become more unhinged. Since she’s has no jurisdiction here even the detective story feels kind of weird as she starts to shoot people and break into private property unhindered.
There are a couple of shock reveals towards the end that feel appropriate at least, and the Class of 1999 drama might have been a great focal point given enough script revision. Instead there are too many attempts to make this a tale of people in scary cults wearing goat masks. Which is a thing that happens for some reason. But it doesn’t feel earned or even interesting as the third act rushes towards a shadowy confrontation at the school. The two lead performances are basically wasted, as are the moments in which the visuals and the score start to come together quite well. Maybe it could have been a great story about the rewards and pitfalls of ruthless ambition, or even one about a simple vendetta. Instead it’s all just too silly and too convoluted for its own good.