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Review: 'I Still See You' is a fragment of a better movie

Posted Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at 11:53 AM Central
Last updated Tuesday, December 11, 2018 at 11:54 AM Central

by John Couture

I have a confession. I want to like Bella Thorne, I really do. I mean, sure, she's obnoxious and purposely lurid for no discernable reason other than to shock you, but I have to give her props for actively trying to rise out of Disney's shadow.

That's no small task, especially these days. Just ask all those Marvel actors who were probably ecstatic when their characters turned to ash earlier this year that perhaps, their Marvel contracts would likewise evaporate. Sadly though, next year's Avengers sequel will likely resurrect most of their Marvel sentences.

Unfortunately for Bella, there's no amount of magic, Disney or otherwise, in the world to spark any life into her new film I Still See You. The sad thing is that the film is centered on an interesting idea, but the filmmakers just couldn't tease out an interesting and compelling film, opting instead to obfuscate and overload the viewers until the credits mercifully roll.

After an apocalyptic event has left the world haunted by ghosts, a young woman (the aforementioned Bella Thorne) receives a threatening message from beyond the grave. With a cunning killer on the loose, it's up to a couple of high school kids to get to the bottom of these crimes, even if means blurring the bounds of the living and the dead.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a fascinating concept here about fragments of dead people (ghosts for the rest of us) that stick around after death to play out small sequences from their lives. But see, there are all these rules. There are a lot of rules. And science, a little too much science for your typical target demographic. But of course, all of the rules become meaningless when someone figures out how to bend and break them all.

For the first half of the film, I kept waiting for the suspense and horror to kick, but I continually found myself disappointed when the plot insisted on adding even more exposition. We get it, the filmmakers think that they are brilliant and want you to know that they thought about the world that is home to their film in an amazing detail. Dude, I hate to break it you Scott Speer, but your career highlight thus far was directing a Step Up movie, and not even a good one at that.

But Bella Thorne is game and her commitment to shed her Disney "good girl" persona is strong as they include several risqué scenes that would make Mickey Mouse blush. Unfortunately for Bella, the script from Jason Fuchs is bogged down by the mundane and doesn't allow the audience to have much fun. There are a few good scary sequences toward the end of the film, but by the time we get there, it's really a case of too little, too late.

Whether it's ghosts or remnants (rems for short, get it?), the idea of the dead communicating or trying to regain life is something that has been ripe in film and literature forever really. So, I was just befuddled as to the need to spend half of the movie world building when you could have set the film up in a three-minute voice over at the beginning.

That's one pet peeve of mine. We have a pretty robust collective film conscious and filmmakers seem reluctant to use it. Instead, they want to spend so much time proving that their ghost movie is so different from all of the others when really it's just another derivative. If you've seen The Sixth Sense, Flatlinters and any of a number of recent teen mopey what is death movies, then you get the gist of I Still See You.

Just lay that all out on front street and spend your time working on the scares and frights because there is an interesting concept, but it gets lost in translation - quite literally. When you boil it down I Still See You forces the viewer to work too hard to get a payoff that just doesn't feel like it's worth the effort.

I Still See You is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.