The road trip from hell has been a frequently used trope in the realm of horror. It not only plays to the audience’s primal fears of strangers, but also provides an excuse to subject characters to some thrilling isolated terror. Playing within such a familiar space, it is easy for a director to fall into the trap of trying to entertain audiences by merely upping the level of gore. However, in his latest film Save Yourself, director Ryan M. Andrews opts to go a different route by injecting dose of fun into his thriller.
This is not to say that Save Yourself will not send chills up audiences’ spines but, similar to its cheeky film-within-a-film opening, it never takes itself too seriously either. The story involves five female filmmakers – Crystal (Tristan Risk), Lizzy (Caleigh Le Grand), Sasha (Tianna Nori), Dawn (Lara Mrkoci) and Kim (Jessica Cameron) – heading to Los Angeles to screen their latest film. Driving all-night, Crystal decides to stop for a smoke break, and a much needed stretch, at a rest stop while her colleagues sleep. However, when the rest of the group wakes, it becomes apparent that Crystal has vanished without a trace.
Unsure of what happened to Crystal, the group decides to set out in order to find both their missing friend and a working phone. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, the women come across the seemingly wholesome home of Chris (Ry Barrett) and Astrid Sauter (Elma Begovic). While the Sauters are generous hosts to the young ladies, it is only a matter of time before German couple’s true colours begin to show. Discovering that Chris is a deranged scientist who believes his experiments are crucial for the greater good, the women quickly find themselves in a fight for their lives.
Hot on the heels of his searing performance in The Demolisher, Ry Barrett is a treat to watch as the mad scientist. He brings the right amount of levity and terror to the role. However, it is the women who really run the show in Save Yourself. Though each of the five main women appears to be familiar stereotypes at first – the promiscuous one, the uptight one, the smart one, etc. – the characters, such as Tianna Nori’s Sasha and Jessica Cameron’s Kim for example, quickly show they are more than mere victims. Each woman brings a unique aspect to the film that makes their fight for survival thrilling to observe. Furthermore, Elma Begovic gives a great performance as the cold and calculating Astrid. Though understated in her approach, Begovic is easily the most chilling character in the whole film.
Save Yourself could have easily been another run-of-the-mill “trapped by a crazy family” horror film. However, thanks to the engaging performances, and the genuine sense of old school fun Andrews employ, the film proves to be a thoroughly entertaining ride from beginning to end.
Saturday, November 28, 9:30 PM, Carlton Cinemas
Sunday, November 29, 7: 30 PM, Carlton Cinemas
Tickets can be purchased at the Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival website.