Don’t Look Back review – smartphone morality shocker fails to connect | Movies

There was something almost camp about death in the Final Destination series, the invisible hand that toyed with us as it liquidated its characters. Franchise originator Jeffrey Reddick tries to recapture that high-concept magic in his directorial debut Don’t Look Back, also about a lethal force stalking a group bound by calamity. But here he bleaches it of humour and adds a nagging moralistic component – possibly with an eye on the faith-movie market.

This time, karma is the invisible antagonist stalking six “bad Samaritans”, who fail to intervene – one committing the cardinal sin and whipping out his smartphone instead – when a local philanthropist gets beaten up at the park. But for Caitlin (Kourtney Bell) her paralysis has personal reasons: it triggers flashbacks to the recent home invasion in which her father was killed. Not that that excuse placates the victim’s brother, Lucas (Will Stout), and hostile public opinion. When one of the group makes a sudden upper-storey window exit, there seems to be some supernatural Jeremy Kyle coming to pass judgment on them all – or so Caitlin believes.

With Don’t Look Back very much feeling like a ropey first draft of Final Destination, Reddick’s gimmick here is fuzzy compared to the franchise’s ruthless focus on the feasibility of outsmarting death. In Don’t Look Back, Reddick tries to set Caitlin a similar fiendish brainteaser, rooted in serial appearances of the number 27, but it is thin gruel plot-wise. The least we can ask for are some virtuoso demises – but with the film only half-heartedly invested in the inter-group dynamics and the individual stakes involved, they are disappointingly vanilla and unimpactful when they come. Karma, it seems, operates mostly by unlucky falls.

It’s simpler for Don’t Look Back to preach fire and brimstone on the smartphone dilemma – which, when virtually everyone in the digital age is guilty of voyeurism to some degree, feels rather early-2000s and un-nuanced. The directing is serviceable, but some rote imagery – especially the ominous crow of death – also likes to hit us over the head. Reddick should have concentrated on giving the characters that kind of treatment.

Don’t Look Back is release on digital platforms on 14 June.

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