James Jay Edwards reviews Behind You, a haunted house movie, and the first feature film from co-writers/co-directors Matthew Whedon and Andrew Mecham.
Everyone knows Hollywood filmmaker Joss Whedon. He’s the creator of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the director of The Avengers, and the writer of The Cabin in the Woods. But, coming from a showbiz family, Joss has an older brother named Matthew who is a filmmaker, too. He’s just not quite as accomplished as his little brother. Behind You is evidence of that fact.
Behind You is about a pair of sisters named Olivia and Claire (June’s Addy Miller and The Outpost’s Elizabeth Birkner, respectively) who, after the death of their mother, are sent to live with their estranged Aunt Beth (Jan Broberg from Maniac and Haunt). Aunt Beth’s big old house is creepy for several reasons, but when Claire wanders down to the basement, she finds a standup mirror that she believes allows her to communicate with her mom’s spirit. Of course, because Behind You is a horror movie, everyone knows that it’s not really the girl’s mother who is behind the messages from beyond.
(Behind You, theatrical release poster, Vertical Entertainment)
Matthew Whedon’s accomplice in making Behind You is Andrew Mecham, another up-and-comer who is even more anonymous than his famously-named partner. In fact, Behind You is the first feature length film from both co-writers/co-directors. And it feels like a first movie. It’s slick and it looks good, especially for a micro-budget, truly independent picture, but, narratively, it leans too heavily on the stereotypes and tropes of the horror genre to be taken seriously. It’s got the distant relative, the spooky house with the forbidden room (and the rules that come with living in said house), the demon disguised as a benevolent spirit—it’s all there. It’s basically The Conjuring and Oculus blended up with just a pinch of Lights Out tossed in for flavor. Except it’s not nearly as unique as any of those movies.
Perhaps Behind You’s biggest flaw is how it glosses over and downplays the spookiest aspect of the movie—the mirror in the basement. Sure, it’s another trope, but it’s the one that Behind You utilizes most effectively, and it’s not explored nearly enough, which takes a big chunk of the fun out of the movie. And, let’s face it, movies like Behind You are only as good as they are fun.
(Behind You, Vertical Entertainment)
The other big problem with Behind You is its pacing. The movie tips its hand too early, showing the audience what few surprises it has while there’s still way too much time left on the clock. It even has a false ending where everything wraps up in record time (not a spoiler, it happens with a good half hour left in the running time). All that does is allow the movie extra time to serve up more rehashed demonology.
This is all starting to sound very negative. In truth, Behind You is as serviceable of a haunted house movie as one is bound to find today. Fans who are into the possessed-child-in-the-basement motif will be fine with it. It’s a good movie, but not great. Great ones come along once in a blue moon, and while spooky spooks are not nearly as commonplace as groaning zombies or seductive vampires, they are a dime a dozen. The ghosts and demons in Behind You are worth a bit more than that, but not much.
(Behind You, Vertical Entertainment)
Matthew Whedon and Andrew Mecham have already completed their next movie, a science fiction tale called The Nameless Days which is slated for release this fall. So, their careers probably won’t be stalled by the lukewarm-ness of Behind You. They’re more likely to be hindered by still-closed theaters and an industry that is striving to find new ways to reach its audience. And, in all fairness, Whedon and Mecham should have bright futures. Behind You is a solid first movie. Let’s all just hope that some of Matthew’s little brother’s ingenuity and creativity rubs off on him in the future.