The night before their high school reunion, a group of attractive people gather at a remote house. Tensions run high due to unfinished high school drama, wildly differing life paths, and everyone rediscovering old crushes. While this is going on, someone starts murdering them in ironic ways.
The backstory revolves around a yearbook, and so do the killings – people are murdered in ways that match their “most likely to…”s, and the motivation for the murders seems to stem from something they did back while the yearbook was being created. The killer is graduation-themed, with a razor-sharp mortar board.
In some ways, Most Likely to Die defies convention. The token black character makes it quite a long way through the film, and the final girl is rather less final than normal. These are positive things. However, in other ways the film sticks slavishly to cliché, and is the weaker for it.
I spent a lot of my time despairing of the characters as they made terrible decision after terrible decision. Faced with a single, human killer, the characters collectively flee from brightly-lit defensible rooms in order to panic alone in the dark. Fear responses are one thing, but some choices are clearly moronic, and they keep on making them.
I also found the killer’s reveal to be disappointing. Throughout the film, I was lightly encouraged because there was an obvious choice, so clearly they were going to do something more interesting. And then, in the final ten minutes, they went with the obvious choice. As a red herring, it would have been great. As the actual answer, it was tedious.
The great positive of this film is the use of “look behind you” moments. Your attention and expectations are effectively controlled, so that the killer’s appearance is surprising, but never fully unexpected; there’s a build in tension as you wait for the reveal of what is clearly true. Horror is all about managing and confounding expectations; despite the film’s other weaknesses, this is an area that is handled well.
The most noticeable thing about this film for me was the male gaze. Despite not actually being that explicit, there is an obvious focus on women as objects. A frankly unnecessary amount of time is spent with the camera at waist height, watching women in bikinis walk slowly away. It’s very pulp, and it matches the genre, but at the same time it’s rather clumsy. Sex and horror go well together – the mix of fear and desire is the foundation of a whole bunch of horror stories. That doesn’t mean that it has to be quite so adolescent.
Most Likely to Die is kind of fun. You can yell at the screen when the characters are dumb, and you can predict how they’re going to be killed. Little details come back to bite or save people – all the standard slasher things. The film as a whole, though, is a little too conventional and clumsy to be properly memorable.