When a film’s description includes the phrase “inspired by a Twitter conversation,” you’d be forgiven for being wary of what you’re about to watch. Thankfully, the meta horror-comedy You Might Be the Killer, which is based on a Twitter conversation between NY Times bestselling authors Sam Sykes and Chuck Wendig, isn’t the train wreck that it could have been. Unfortunately, it’s not particularly good, either. The film is filled to the brim with tons of horror movie references and in-jokes, seeing only a quarter of them land (at best). Still, there is fun to be had thanks to some great gore and winning performances from Fran Kranz and Alyson Hannigan, so the movie isn’t a total wash.
You Might Be the Killer sees camp counselor Sam (Fran Kranz, The Cabin in the Woods) on the run from a masked killer at the camp he is employed at. Rather than call the police, he calls his friend Chuck (Alyson Hannigan, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, American Pie), a slasher movie expert, to help him survive the night. Sam and Chuck work together to gradually fill in the gaps to see how he got to where he is now only to realize that, as the film’s title implies, Sam might be the killer!
The film begins in media res during what would normally be the third act of a slasher film, but slowly catches the audience up to what’s going on via flashback (in one of the film’s more novel storytelling devices, scenes start with a title card announcing the body count to let you know at what point in the night they are taking place). Characters introductions act as a fun throwback to ’80s slasher movies by having title cards (again) state the characters’ names. During these moments, the film is doctored to look grainy and scratched up like an old 35mm films. It’s all in good fun, and moments like these should give horror fans plenty to enjoy, but the throwbacks and references never goes beyond surface-level. This isn’t a problem if you’re looking for a good movie to put on after you’ve had a few drinks, but viewers wanting a little bit more substance with their satire will be left wanting.
You Might Be the Killer plays similarly to films like The Final Girls and Tragedy Girls, but it’s nowhere near as emotionally resonant as the former or as clever as the latter (and it’s definitely not in the same league as The Cabin in the Woods or Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon). Some of the jokes inspire a chuckle, but when a horror movie in 2018 is giving the protagonist (and therefore, the audience) a lesson on what a Final Girl is, you start to feel a little talked down to. It is unclear who this film is made for. It can’t be for horror junkies, as sequences like the aforementioned Final Girl lesson are beneath them, but it’s not really for horror novices either, as there are so many in-jokes peppered throughout the film that it will go right over their heads. To top it off, most of the jokes are variations of the same “let’s call out the horror movie cliché/trope that’s happening right now” self-awareness and it gets old fast since most of the time the film just calls it out. There’s not much effort made to subvert those stereotypes and tropes.
It’s not all bad though. There really are some good ideas behind the junk in You Might Be the Killer. In the opening scene, Sam has an issue getting into his phone because the facial recognition software isn’t recognizing his face with blood smeared all over it. It’s a small touch, but the devil is in the details. A climactic battle between two female characters to determine who will be the Final Girl feels particularly inspired. The store Chuck works at houses several knockoff film posters for films such as Trailer Park Shark and another poster that was a dead ringer for the Friday the 13th Part VII poster ( though I couldn’t read the name). So there is enjoyment to be found (and plenty of Easter eggs to be seen) in You Might Be the Killer, it’s just not prevalent throughout the entire film.
Kranz is charming in his role as the oblivious Sam and Hannigan is likable as always in what little screentime she has (her scenes consist solely of the conversations she has with Sam over the phone, so it’s probably the easiest paycheck she’s ever received), but you’d be hard-pressed to remember anything about any of the other characters. Even with the aforementioned title cards introducing them, they exist solely to be knife fodder for the killer. This isn’t a huge problem, as one-dimensional characters are a common characteristic of the slasher sub-genre. One just wishes the film would have done more to establish the secondary characters so you actually cared about them when they died.
As for the masked killer, he (or she?) wears a mask that bears a striking resemblance to the mask from Cub and comes with a fun backstory that won’t be spoiled here. The kills are all pretty fantastic throughout. Director Brett Simmons doesn’t skimp on the gore, which makes sense for a film sending up slasher movie tropes. Throats are slit, heads are split in two, and stomachs are stabbed. It’s all played with its tongue planted firmly in cheek so you don’t take any of it too seriously.
You Might Be the Killer‘s heart is in the right place, and it will no doubt play well to a midnight crowd, but anyone who has seen a few horror films will most likely feel talked down to by some of the jokes in the film. There are moments of inspiration to be found, but they are buried within variations on the same joke that are repeated ad nauseam. Recommended if you’ve already had a few and are looking for a good chuckle.