The Movie Waffler First Look Review - DON’T LOOK BACK | The Movie Waffler

First Look Review - DON’T LOOK BACK

don't look back review
The passive witnesses to a murder begin to die in mysterious circumstances.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jeffrey Reddick

Starring: Kourtney Bell, Bryan Batt, Will Stout, Skyler Hart, Jeremy Holm, Jaqueline Fleming

don't look back poster


As the creator of the Final Destination series, screenwriter Jeffrey Reddick has guaranteed himself an entry in any future horror encyclopaedias. What a great and fresh concept Reddick came up with at a time when Hollywood was still churning out uninspired Scream knockoffs. Broken down, Final Destination is essentially a slasher movie, but the genius of Reddick was to make death itself the villain. In each entry in the series, a group of survivors of some over-the-top accident (usually rendered in a thrilling set-piece, none better than the highway sequence that sets up Final Destination 2) find that they can't escape their fate, as death catches up with them one by one through clever Rube Goldberg-esque sequences that transform previously ambivalent surroundings into deathtraps. Its simplicity is a thing of beauty. God I love it!

As you can imagine, I was excited for Reddick's directorial debut, Don't Look Back, an expansion of a short he made a few years back, as it follows a similar format to the script that made his name. Once again we have a group of strangers drawn together by a horrific incident, and once again they perish one by one in seemingly inexplicable fashion.

don't look back review

Here, the strangers are bonded not by surviving some disaster but rather by witnessing a horrific act and failing to intervene. Nine months after a home invasion that resulted in her father being shot dead and herself clinically dying for three minutes before being revived, Caitlin Kramer (Kourtney Bell) has plucked up enough courage to finally leave her house and go for a jog in the local park. There she sees a man, whom we later learn is Douglas Helton (Dean J. West), being brutally beaten by another man. Her agoraphobia kicking in, Caitlin remains rooted to the spot. Other bystanders have no such excuses, yet they fail to intervene, with one man even recording the incident on his phone.


What follows is essentially a retread of the Final Destination template, as the witnesses succumb to death one by one. The key difference here is that we aren't treated to any outlandish or cleverly constructed set-pieces. Rather most of the deaths occur offscreen, with Caitlin arriving on the scene just in time to find their fresh corpses, like a millennial Jessica Fletcher.

don't look back review

Remove Final Destination's Grand Guignol flourishes and you would be left with a rather uninvolving mystery with the occasional bit of metaphysical philosophising thrown in. That's pretty much what you get here. Don't Look Back is a curiously chaste film, as though Reddick set out to make a horror movie guaranteed not to offend your churchgoing grandmother.


Churches figure heavily here. Most American supernatural horror movies involve a degree of Christianity, but it's usually within a white Catholic milieu. Don't Look Back takes place against a black Protestant backdrop, and while this makes for a refreshing change (it might be the first such horror movie since William Girdler's Abby back in 1974), with its literary nature, Protestantism doesn't translate to the screen with the same impact as Catholicism, that most visual of Christian sects. Where Catholicism likes to show, Protestantism prefers to tell, and that doesn't make for good cinema.

don't look back review

Don't Look Back has the bones of a decent horror movie. It suffers from Reddick's inexperience behind the camera, with some film school freshman mistakes on display like eyelines failing to match, but he does throw in the occasional clever flourish, like a bird's eye view of candles ominously blowing out during a night time vigil. Bell is the film's one revelation, and her spirited performance goes a long way towards keeping us onboard with a movie that plays a little too close to a second rate Lifetime thriller. With a seasoned director at the helm and some satisfying set-pieces, Don't Look Back could easily have made for an entertaining throwback to turn of the century popcorn horror. As it is, it's both literally and metaphorically bloodless.

Don't Look Back is in US cinemas and VOD from October 16th. A UK/ROI release has yet to be announced.

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