October 8, 2018 I Still See You (Movie Review)
What if an apocalyptic event took the people you loved but also left a piece of them behind, making the whole world one gigantic haunted house? In a world where the dead are able to walk amongst the living, nothing is exactly as it seems. Such is the central core of I Still See You, a haunting new Thriller from Lionsgate, which premiere in theaters and On Demand Friday, October 12, 2018.
Ten years ago, the Event washed through the streets of Chicago and her surrounding areas, an explosion of energy that left buildings standing but took away human lives in its unfathomable wake. Besides leaving behind a world that would never be the same again, the Event produced spectral remnants of those who lost their lives; ghosts now trapped on an eternal cycle of repeat. Some call them ghouls or spooks, but others simply refer to these others as “rems.”
In Jewel City, Illinois, less than fifty miles from the epicenter of the Event, Ronnie (Bella Thorne: The Duff 2015, The Babysitter 2017) is taking it one day at a time, haunted by the loss of her father but, in some ways, warmed by the presence of his rem. While preparing for school one morning, she finds herself face-to-face with a rem that she has never encountered before – an ominous presence with stunning blue eyes. As is standard with his kind, he says nothing, but leaves her with a parting word carefully etched into the steam of the bathroom’s mirror: “RUN!”
At school, her kindly and concerned teacher, Mr. Bittner (Dermot Mulroney: My Best Friend’s Wedding 1997, New Girl series), is tackling the topic of spectral remnants in his class – but he denies the possibility of the legitimacy of what Ronnie has recently encountered. Dedicated to uncovering the truth about the rem whom she has named Brian (Thomas Elms: Aftermath series, The Order series), Ronnie enlists the help of the darkly mysterious loner Kirk (Richard Harmon: The Age of Adaline 2015, The 100 series), because every sleuth needs a partner-in-crime. Together, Ronnie and Kirk must find the answer to Brian’s identity and, most importantly, what he wants with Ronnie. The clock is quickly ticking and, much like the world around them, nothing is exactly as it seems.
Clocking in at 105 minutes in-length, I Still See You was directed by Scott Speer (Step Up Revolution 2012, Midnight Sun 2018), was written by Jason Fuchs (Ice Age: Continental Drift 2012, Wonder Woman 2017), and is based off the 2012 novel Break My Heart One Thousand Times by Daniel Waters. It also features Amy Price-Francis (The Purge: Anarchy 2015, Fifty Shades Darker 2017) as Ronnie’s mother, Anna Calder; Shaun Benson (General Hospital series, ARQ 2016) as Ronnie’s father, the rem; and Louis Herthum (The Last Exorcism 2010, Chicago Med series) as Dr. Steiner, propagator of the Event.
I Still See You is a perfect entry into the Thriller genre: it moves at a steady, engaging clip and it is an intelligent offering with enjoyable plot twists; while there are elements of the paranormal, Drama and Mystery throughout, this is certainly a better-than-average Thriller offering. In fact, this all plays out like a fabulous John Ajvide Lindqvist piece brought to the big screen, which is much in thanks to its stellar screenplay (by Fuchs) based off the wonderful novel Break My Heart One Thousand Times by Daniel Waters. It’s also worth noting that, as with all great films, I Still See You has an exceptional original score by talented Composer Bear McCreary (The Walking Dead series, 10 Cloverfield Lane 2016), which sets the spooky tone beautifully throughout the film.
Of course, no brilliant screenplay or stunning musical score could save a floundering production devoid of acting talent. Thankfully, the cast here are exceptional in their roles and do the entire production a bevy of justice. In the lead, Thorne is a young actress who has proven herself time and again as a stand-out name in Hollywood. With each of her recent performances – many in the Thriller and Horror genres – Thorne has shown the ability to be an on-screen chameleon who changes her appearance and performance to fit each of her roles. With Ronnie, she is no different: a darkly brooding, haunted young woman who is intelligent and hyper-aware. The true success in Thorne’s portrayal of her character is in her ability to effectively communicate the subtle nuances of Ronnie Calder: a strong-willed, independent woman who possesses moments of fear, moments of confusion and emotional pain; a girl who is fully living in the present and yet also fully haunted by her past.
Mulroney is a man who requires no introduction or backstory, a talent who has been in Hollywood for decades. With the role of Bittner, he steps into something a bit more left-field and off-kilter, as he is certainly not the handsome groom-to-be here. He does a brilliant job of communicating Bittner as a serious teacher, someone who the students respect, and yet an oft light-hearted educator with a sense of humor who seemingly mocks himself with the attempted use of hip slang. It’s amusing and adds a lighter note to a very serious tale. Without going into too much detail, Mulroney does a splendid job with his role, which provides the film with many of its twists and turns.
There is one oversight in I Still See You that feels a bit shoddy, but maybe that is simply in the eyes of this admittedly anal-retentive reviewer. That said, there is a scene at the beginning of the film where Mr. Bittner is standing in front of a chalkboard emblazed with: “Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Gettysburg, Chernobyl.” Presumably, he is drawing parallels between nuclear-related catastrophes and the Event – something that the film does frequently – though one must wonder what Gettysburg is doing on this list? Clearly, Three Mile Island is the intended historical reference here, however, that took place in Middletown, Pennsylvania, nearly 40 miles from Gettysburg – which is famous for its own tragic events, though they were hardly nuclear.
Whatever the case, few will likely even realize this snafu, and many will adore watching I Still See You. A wonderfully haunting Thriller that injects a dose of the paranormal into a semi-apocalyptic world, this is a darkly moody film that weaves an intriguing mystery around one particular young woman. There are twists and a turn here or there, ghosts, and a world coated in perpetual snow, and yet I Still See You never feels depressing or overwrought with the macabre. Instead, it uses a bleakness to set a mood and then weaves a wonderfully engaging tale through the darkness and into the light. For these reasons, CrypticRock give I Still See You 4.5 of 5 stars. That ending seems a bit ambiguous, should we be thinking sequel?