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“MOST LIKELY TO DIE” (New York City Horror Film Fest Review)

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MOST LIKELY TO DIE is a strange beast, mostly because its most alluring charm is also its greatest detraction. The fact is that MOST LIKELY TO DIE, from concept to execution, is standard slasher film fare; there’s rarely a moment in MOST LIKELY TO DIE that one won’t recognize as a horror movie trope or as problematically predictable. However, in the age where most films are either minimalistic, low-budget haunting movies or direct-to-video torture porn, there’s something refreshing about a pick-’em-off slasher film, complete with masked killer and ridiculous gimmick. Yet even with all the tools and potential at their behest, the fact that MOST LIKELY TO DIE never quite escalates beyond its conventional story is frustrating, ultimately limiting the film to an enjoyable yet forgettable contemporary chiller.

MOST LIKELY TO DIE even has a fairly excellent premise behind it, following a group of 20-somethings who assemble at their friend’s remote beachside property in preparation for their 10-year high school reunion. While many of them have grown apart, and some even have changed completely from their teenage years, they each begin to reconnect while reminiscing over their past, including a prank-gone-wrong that ruined the life of one of their classmates. However, once strange things start happening and bodies hit the floor, the group must fight to survive the night while deducing who among them may be a killer.

Helmed by DREAD’s Anthony DiBlasi and written by Laura Brennan, there is an apparent attempt to make MOST LIKELY TO DIE better than your average slasher, which it is at points. The characters on display, while somewhat evocative of the subgenre’s stock characters, are more complicated and fleshed out than one might expect. And for what it’s worth, DiBlasi and cinematographer Timothy A. Burton do a pretty great job at establishing the spatial relationship for the limited locations on display, making an otherwise common hallway look damn near terrifying under certain circumstances. Even the death scenes, while not all home runs, offer at least two inventive and grueling kills, one of which presents a deadly, prolonged spin on the flat-edged graduated cap that many horror fans won’t soon forget.

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Yet at the end of the day, MOST LIKELY TO DIE pulls a bit too many punches to really be anything more than another mindless slasher. In fact, the gimmick that makes the film so enticing- the yearbook superlatives that the killer abides by- also cripples the mystery of the killer, making it fairly obvious who is doing the deeds early on, especially once the main red herring is unceremoniously killed off. Furthermore, while the film succeeds at making some side characters more layered than expected, others come off sadly one-dimensional, especially when certain character relationships are revealed. Had Brennan and DiBlasi worked a bit harder at hiding the killer’s identity or given more dramatic punctuation to the interpersonal rifts, MOST LIKELY TO DIE could have really been a damn good slasher as opposed to a merely decent killer thriller.

As for performances, MOST LIKELY TO DIE has results across the board, with most of the cast delivering some truly impressive performances while others don’t fare so well. In the former category, Tess Christianson, Ryan Doom, Marci Miller, Johnny Ramey and a surprisingly great Perez Hilton really piece together an effective ensemble. Unfortunately, Skyler Vallo, Tatum Miranda, Jason Tobias and Jake Busey barely get enough screentime to make an impression, while Chad Addison’s otherwise solid performance is hurt by a distracting, late-act twist. The only real question mark on-screen is Heather Morris, who delivers a strong performance but in a role that, by its disadvantageous nature, severely limits how much emotion she can put on-screen; if Morris approached the role as the “Ice Queen” that she is described as so often, then she certainly hits the mark.

Overall, MOST LIKELY TO DIE is the kind of horror film that one might enjoy but certainly won’t rush to champion as a cult classic. There’s no denying that the natural charm that comes with slashers is present here, especially with DiBlasi’s visual finesse to help modernize some of the old school tropes. But MOST LIKELY TO DIE is held back by its own limited ambition, and while there’s fun to be had in seeing all the bloody action unfold, it’s a bit too predictable and pedestrian to drop jaws or turn heads.

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About the author
Ken W. Hanley
Ken W. Hanley is the Managing Web Editor for FANGORIA and STARLOG, as well as the former Web Editor for Diabolique Magazine and a contributing writer to YouWonCannes.com. He’s a graduate from Montclair State University, where he received an award for Excellence in Screenwriting. He’s currently working on screenplays, his debut novel "THE I IN EVIL", and various other projects, and can be followed on Twitter: @movieguyiguess.
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