FrightFest Review: MOST LIKELY TO DIE (2015){0}

Scream and… Scream again? 

“I’m over it, it’s in the past,” declares Gaby (Heather Morris), as Brad (Ryan Doom), her one-time school boyfriend turned TV star, tries to apologise for the circumstances in which he left her so many years ago.

Her words may well resonate with the way that viewers feel about slashers, that horror subgenre which, in its ‘80s heyday, typically showed screaming co-eds dying one by one at the hands of a masked killer. For the slasher has long since been done to death, and can, post-Scream, often seem little more than a metacinematic echo chamber of overused, over-deconstructed tropes. High time, then, to let it go and move on.

Yet in Most Likely To Die, passing time and making one’s peace with the past prove to be the central themes, as a small group of old friends who have already ‘survived’ their bitchy, bullying senior year are now, a decade later and the night before a high school reunion, gathering at an isolated house to take stock, rekindle old flames, express regrets, and, in the case of one of their number, settle some old scores. For there is, in this arrested, dysfunctional gang, someone who still harbours a lethal grudge after all these years and, dressed in a graduate gown, bladed mortarboard and homemade mask, is determined to make a bloody mark, with murder tableaux that grotesquely parody the ‘most likely to…’ school year book entries for each victim.

While definitely an updated slasher with all the mod cons, Most Likely To Die also casts a slyly retrospective eye back over the genre and its evolution from its youth to a more postmodern age. In a ‘coastal property’ festooned with Jason Voorhees-style hockey equipment, one character will incredulously declare, “Please, like this Cabin in the Woods shit ever happens!”, another (reminiscing about bygone schooldays) will insist, “Detention [2011] was awesome!”, while a third will observe, “If it were a movie I’d be the killer”. It is all very self-conscious, but at its core, Most Likely To Die presents a generation of lost thirtysomethings who, like adults trying desperately to erase their embarrassing internet history, find themselves being punished for juvenile demeanours that, like guilt or ghosts, just will not entirely go away.

“People don’t change,” Gaby will later say, “They just become better at being the shits that they were.” This clever but nonetheless tepid offering from seasoned director Anthony DiBlasi (Dread, Cassadaga, Missionary, Last Shift) suggests that perhaps the same is true for the slasher movie, and that there are limits to how much this genre can ever grow up.