Studio: Screen Media Films
Director: Brett Simmons
Writer: Thomas P. Vitale, Brett Simmons, Covis Berzoyne
Producer: Griff Furst, Thomas P. Vitale, Brett Simmons
Stars: Fran Kranz, Alyson Hannigan, Brittany S. Hall, Jenna Harvey, Patrick Reginald Walker, Catt Bellamy, Savannah DesOrmeaux, Jack Murillo, Keith David, Bryan Price
A counselor comes to suspect he might unknowingly be the masked murderer slaughtering coworkers at a remote summer camp.
After mulling it over for a minute, I suppose it is perfectly possible to appreciate a movie’s comedic value, even if it doesn’t spur someone to crack a single smile. I sat stone-faced through the entirety of “You Might Be the Killer,” a sometimes sly, sometimes silly meta-slasher. However, although I never laughed out loud, I also never groaned, rolled my eyes, or checked the clock with a sigh.
As a person historically hard to please when it comes to horror-comedies, simply not feeling disinterested tells me the movie must have done something right. Or, to phrase it with a more ‘glass half full’ perspective, “You Might Be the Killer” has enough charm to be casually captivating, even when its humor has a hard time hitting.
Camp counselor Sam just witnessed the slaughter of several coworkers by a masked maniac in the woods. At least, he thinks he did. Curiously, Sam was spared. What’s really concerning is the fact that Sam is covered in blood, carrying the killer’s signature weapon, and has the mask in his backpack too. Connecting a dot involving his recent spate of sudden blackouts, Sam starts suspecting, well, you know what the movie’s title is.
In a hyperventilating panic, Sam calls his good friend Chuck, a comic shop clerk who is also a horror film fan, for counsel on what to do next. While Sam racks his brain to piece together flashes of what happened, Chuck walks Sam through the “rules” of slasher survival. Over the course of their conversations that run the full length of the film, Sam and Chuck try to solve the mystery behind what’s going on, and hopefully plot a safe path to end credits before Sam can be killed by a Final Girl.
“You Might Be the Killer” gets a majority of its gas from Fran Kranz, who never takes his lead foot off of Sam’s accelerator. Kranz is one of those under-recognized actors who will never be a household name. But anyone who has seen him in projects like “Bloodsucking Bastards” (review here), hell, even “The Dark Tower” (review here), can attest that he never commits less than 100%. Like a vampire, the film draws on Kranz’s copious energy to power it through dopey dips and right back into manic mania.
Alyson Hannigan sees her second-billed role as Chuck relegated to confinement in a comic shop interacting with Sam solely over the phone. You could literally re-film her scenes using any other actor or actress, re-edit them into the movie, and never notice a difference in the story or the production. The script intentionally incorporates this structure. Yet it’s weird watching Hannigan wander around a store, which appears to be an actual comic shop despite looking like a hospital cafeteria redressed with posters from some pretty obscure horror movies (that are unchanged in the “Two Years Later” epilogue too), forced to do all of her acting against someone who isn’t there.
That said, “You Might Be the Killer” wouldn’t have any spark at all without experienced vets like Kranz and Hannigan behind the wheel. It takes two impressive performers to co-headline a feature without ever being in the same room together. Fran Kranz and Alyson Hannigan’s collective commitment to their characters invigorates their dialogue. It genuinely feels like they are sharing each remote moment together, even though for all anyone knows, the two of them may never have met in reality.
Only a couple of secondary counselors have enough lines to build anything resembling a personality. Most of them are included only to bump the body count into double digits. Bryan Price gets the better background bits as Steve ‘The Kayak King,’ who tells a group of kids not to worry about gators because they sent a diver to check the water. The diver hasn’t come back yet, meaning he must be doing a very thorough job.
That joke indicates the movie’s brand of “quick hit and move on” humor, often with more than one goof going on at the same time. Gags neither linger too long nor draw exaggerated attention to convince an audience of cleverness. “You Might Be the Killer” has a mild “take it or leave it” attitude suggesting it’s fine forging its own dementedly fun road. Should you choose to come along, great. If not, hey, the filmmakers tried their best, and that includes several splattery kills to keep the horror side of things capably covered.
It’s atypical for a horror-comedy about cabin in the woods clichés to not be a campy lampoon. “You Might Be the Killer” contains some overdone winks such as a pair named Freddie (sic) and Nancy, and several slightly showy claws at cred by name-dropping flicks like “Maniac Cop.” But the film doesn’t disrespectfully talk down to fright film fans. You can tell the creators care about horror, and their imaginations aren’t limited to elbowing anyone in the ribs to simply say, “did you ever notice?” about another tired trope.
We’re approaching a peak of so many slasher spoofs that soon we’ll be seeing parodies of horror film parodies. Since the subgenre isn’t all the way there yet, “You Might Be the Killer’s” evenhanded restraint can be appreciated before we pass the point of oversaturation on this sort of satire.
Is “You Might Be the Killer” hilarious? No. Is its comedy creative? Erm, that’s debatable too. Nevertheless, the film stays sincerely spirited thanks to the sizzle of its main actors and semi-snappy pace.
Review Score: 60