Stream to Scream: “KRISTY”Fearful Features,Movies/TV,News Ken W. Hanley
When a movie finds a comfortable spot on a studio shelf, more than likely it’s the sign of a troubled production. Whether it’s a hard film to sell, a tough script to crack or any number of legal issues, there’s rarely a film that comes out unscathed once it’s pulled from a set release date. But a negative preconception doesn’t necessarily equate to a low-quality film, and in the case of KRISTY (a/k/a SATANIC), which was unceremoniously debuted on the Lifetime Channel after nearly 2 years on the shelf, is living proof that not all rocky roads lead to disappointing places.
For those unfamiliar, KRISTY follows a young college student named Justine who decides to stay on campus with her roommate through Thanksgiving break. However, when her roommate is abruptly invited off-campus for a family trip, Justine finds herself targeted by a group of mask-wearing outcasts with nefarious intentions. And when bodies start turning up, Justine has to decide whether to keep running and find help or fight back with any means necessary.
Surprisingly enough, this writer can somewhat understand why KRISTY was held back, particularly due to tonal and stylistic similarities to both THE PURGE and YOU’RE NEXT, the latter of which didn’t make as much money as Lionsgate certainly wished it did. But in any case, KRISTY is a film that has some pacing issues as well, especially in the first half as we’re more-or-less launched into Justine’s life without getting to know who she really is. However, while that may be problematic in some senses, that approach does make sense once the second and third acts stroll along, as the film kicks into hyperdrive and becomes truly memorable.
To be honest, the opening credits of KRISTY hinted at the kind of movie I feared the film would be, filled with late-’90s slasher tropes of web footage of satanic imagery and Manson-esque rhetoric. But by the time the horror becomes apparent in KRISTY, the film really does a superb job of providing an engaging and mature narrative that flourishes in both style and substance. In fact, there’s a subversive edge to Anthony Jaswinski’s script that really keeps the second act a tense and unsettling experience, and allows the third act to be as kick-ass as any viewer would want it to be. And the film’s talent behind the camera certainly helps director Oliver Blackburn remain confident with his material and performers, with producer Scott Derrickson’s guidance certainly bleeding through while Crille Forsberg’s stunning cinematography, Francois-Eudes Chanfrault’s mechanical score and Jeff Betancourt’s editing anchors the film.
Speaking of performers, KRISTY sports a rather strong cast, with star Haley Bennett offering a believable sense of fear throughout until her terrifically physical turn in the final act. Ashley Greene is effectively creepy in her limited role as one of Justine’s tormentors, alongside Mike Seal, Lucius Falick and Chris Coy (who has quickly begun establishing a name for himself in the genre). And KRISTY rounds out its cast with some impressive talent in smaller roles, including Lucas Till as Justine’s boyfriend, Erica Ash as Justine’s roommate and even a great James Ransone as the Campus Security Guard.
Overall, while KRISTY may have had a difficult time making its way to U.S. audiences, the film is much stronger than anyone might give it credit for. Unafraid to be brutal when it needs to be, it’s a genuinely freaky flick and features one of the most solid third acts of a recent film in recent memory, with a poll-side sequence that would put IT FOLLOWS to shame. And while the motivation for the killers might be weak, KRISTY does a fantastic job of rebounding an otherwise problematic first half into a kinetic and excellent latter half that viewers won’t soon forget.