There’s a touch of ‘Stranger Things’ about this lo-fi indie horror. Inquisitive young ’uns on choppers investigating disappearances in small-town America, supernatural shenanigans and a nervous wreck of a single mother all make it feel like a second cousin to the Netflix show. But while ‘Stranger Things’ is a precision-tooled nostalgia-fest, this adaptation of Dan Wells’s young adult thriller is a touch more mature, weaving a mental health message into its gently twisted story of suburban monstrosity.
Max Records (the young scamp in ‘Where the Wild Things Are’, all grown-up) is impressive as likeable diagnosed sociopath John Cleaver, whose unhealthy interest in killers is piqued when someone starts offing local townsfolk and keeping bits of the bodies. Familiar teen-movie standards (a meeting in the principal’s office, a showdown with a bully) are all present and correct but take on an enjoyably dark edge thanks to John’s messed-up mind. Supporting characters rarely make their presence felt, with the exception of Christopher Lloyd as the creepy codger-next-door who John pegs as the prime suspect. Given his own aggressive urges, though, we can never be sure that things are truly as they seem and, sure enough, things only get odder as the body count mounts.
The icky, well-teased, nightmarish climax is visually stunning for a low-budget project, though perhaps a touch too straight-up strange for some.