★★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Brett Simmons
If something is around long enough it’s going to be parodied. There will be barbs, jabs, satire and plenty of loving imitation. Even the tropes and trends that surround a specific genre will get reworked, turned inside out, and devotedly re-re-re-imagined. The horror genre has provided ample opportunity for this type of satire and lampoonery time and time again. But, it’s rather rare that the terror mockery ever gets it right. Very rare.
The 2018 joint You Might be the Killer is one of those rare and fleeting examples where the lampoonery is fun and inclusive, but done in a way that’s respectful to the genre. You Might be the Killer is a “meta-comedy-horror” film that is so meta, it may have subtly slipped in to a non-meta world. The film, directed by Brett Simmons, involves Camp Clear Vista owner/operator Sam (Fran Kranz), and his best pal, and comic book store owner, Chuck (Alyson Hannigan). The deceptively simple premise behind You Might be the Killer begins with a phone call from Sam at Camp Clear Vista to his best pal Chuck. Sam excitedly explains to Chuck that all 12 of the “13” camp counselors have been brutally murdered by a crazed teen killer — with a MASK!
Sam’s quixotic ramblings about the camp counselor murders quickly turn in to a funny and self-aware examination of the tropes and trends of camp counselor murderin’. Chuck, as a self-avowed comic/horror nerd, is able to help Sam separate fact from fiction by methodically going down the check list of motives, horror tropes, and camp counselor personifications. What kind of weapon? How have they been killed? Is there a final girl? Did any of the counselors neglect or harm the camp goers? Is the mask really controlling Sam’s mind? Are the counselors sexually active? Eventually, a blood-soaked Sam, huddled in a camp cabin, begins to deductively answer Chuck’s questions, but horrifyingly comes to the conclusion that HE is the killer!
Interestingly, You Might be the Killer reveals the killer, Sam, early in the first act of the film. From there on out, the film establishes a funny camp-killer dialogue with Chuck and Sam, all the while set against a series of out-of-order flashback scenes that parade out the grim killings. On the best and most meta lines in the film has one of the camp counselors shouting “Oh my god you guys we found Bob, Ted, Carol, and Alice’s bodies.” Whether they lucked in to those characters names or whether it was a conscious choice, it was damn funny. Another super-funny device employed by director Brett Simmons displays an on-going kill counter for each of the camp counselors. However, because the flashback sequences are all scrambled in Sam’s Voorhees-esque mind, the kill-counter has to keep resetting. This clever little meta-device also serves to editorialize about each of the killings and whether the camp counselors that’ve been killed really are dead.
Eventually, Chuck, from the vantage of the comic book store, comes to the conclusion that Sam will be killed by the “final girl.” In this ensemble cast, the final girl turns out to be Jamie and allegedly she’s pure as the driven snow. Throughout the entire film Chuck stays on the phone continuing to dispense valuable horror movie background to whoever’s willing to listen. Her horror movie knowledge is exceptional and useful. Never does she steer anyone wrong, nor does she preemptively step on the script.
You Might be the Killer is a really well-conceived and pretty thoughtful movie. However, it could have stood some additional comedy. Several of the actors were only allowed a line or two, including the rather funny Steve “the Kayak King.” With such an amazing cast, Brett Simmons definitely missed some jokes as potentially too much time was spent perseverating over the meta nature of the camp-counselor killer. Brett Simmons has a solid pastiche of horror under his belt. Here’s to hoping that he continues to roil in this genre.
You Might be the Killer is Rated R and currently available for streaming on Shudder.