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First Look Review - EVERLASTING

A teen seeks out the killer responsible for his girlfriend's death.



Review by Ren Zelen (@renzelen)

Directed by: Anthony Stabley

Starring: Valentina De Angelis, Adam David, Elisabeth Rohm, Bai Ling, Michael Massee, Pat Healy



Director/writer Anthony Stabley is to be commended for his aesthetically arresting and delicate handling of a dark story. Everlasting has a hypnotic structure but a documentary feel, which serves to make the story-telling immediate, relatable and heart-breaking.


A pretty small-town girl goes to the big city with dreams of being a famous model. She gets a taste of the high life, but her naiveté and hunger for success make her vulnerable and she slides into the company of shady people. Soon she is targeted by a serial killer and becomes his next victim.
It’s not an original story, and sadly, one that is rooted in reality. Everlasting however approaches this tragic tale in a different and more thoughtful way.
Rather than being a thriller which tracks the devious manoeuvres of a serial killer hunting his prey, Everlasting concentrates on something often overlooked in serial-killer movies – the story of the victim, in all its hope, frailty and complexity. The film highlights something we’re not usually allowed to feel in contemporary thriller/horror movies, with their penchant for amoral violence and mindless body-counts – and that is the unutterably heart-breaking loss of a single human life in all its glittering potential. We need to be reminded of this, and often.
The movie also touches on the justice system and how it appears to let down the victims and their families and how, due to technicalities, the perpetrators of dreadful crimes are let back out into society to commit further atrocities.
Jessie (Valentina de Angelis) and Matt (Adam David) are teens in love. After her murder, the police fail to make any headway with the investigation, but budding film-maker Matt receives a package, apparently from her killer. He decides to document his journey to Los Angeles to find out what happened to his young girlfriend and to confront the man who murdered her. 
Everlasting comes across as a mix of found-footage thriller, investigative documentary and young gothic romance. The film switches from the footage that Matt has filmed both in the past, recording his romance, and in the present, during his search for answers. This gives the film a slightly dreamy quality that plays like a memory recalled from photographs and videos. It is a film that is conscious of how young people today record their lives through various visual media, and are seduced by visual images of themselves, as if these invest their existence with some kind of validity.
Director/writer Anthony Stabley is to be commended for his aesthetically arresting and delicate handling of a dark story. Everlasting has a hypnotic structure but a documentary feel, which serves to make the story-telling immediate, relatable and heart-breaking. There is a subtle but unnerving undertone in many scenes. The movie works as a neo-noir and a cautionary tale - does Jessie have some kind of death wish? Or, with both teens admitting their fascination with the macabre, are they just playing fantasy horror games and daring the universe to undermine the perceived invincibility of their youth?
There are insights which raise questions concerning Jessie’s state of mind which are later taken up by the agent of her demise. There is certainly a touch of the darkness of Laura Palmer and the dreamy mystery of Twin Peaks which permeates Jessie’s character.
From the first scene, Everlasting has an unnerving beauty. The acting can be a little static at times, but only in the minor scenes, and considering these actors are so young, they handle the more emotional aspects well, especially Valentina de Angelis, who manages to convey a dangerous mix of naiveté, aberrant curiosity and discomfiture in Jessie’s character.
The love story, for me at least, was the least credible aspect. There were references as to how much the couple had 'been through together' and frequent declarations of love, but there really isn’t much in the movie to support the suggestion of a relationship of any strength or depth. On the other hand, these assertions might be seen as the protestations of first love, sincerely believed but also ultimately shallow, because there is no bedrock of experience for it to be anchored in. The youngsters play out their love in the commonplace, fleeting moments of troubled teen romance.
Everlasting belies its small scale by packing a lot into its running time, drawing the viewer in with haunting and beautifully-shot visuals and a simple script. Jon Bickford’s cinematography and Scott Gordon and David Levita’s fittingly unnerving score give the film an eerie aura of emptiness. Seasoned actors such as Michael Massee and Elisabeth Röhm help to anchor and raise the calibre of the narrative. 
It would not be accurate to label Everlasting as horror, but it certainly has its shocking moments. In general it prefers to convey its message with a sense of unease and seeks to confront the real horrors that can exist right under our noses, perhaps in the basement of a house in a street we walk down every day. While we’ve seen the revenge story before, usually in the form of an action movie or gory “torture porn” film, Everlasting at least gives this genre a new perspective.
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