Combustible Celluloid
With: Jessica Allain, Pepi Sonuga, Paige Hurd, Luke Tennie, Michael Ocampo, Mitchell Edwards, Maestro Harrell, Chelsea Rendon, Tequan Richmond, Jason Woods, RZA, Mykelti Williamson, Vanessa Williams, Valery M. Ortiz, Vanessa Bell Calloway, Big Boy, Skipper Elekwachi, Chauncey Jenkins, The Lady of Rage, Jully Lee,
Written by: Dallas Jackson, Ken Rance
Directed by: Dallas Jackson
MPAA Rating: NR
Running Time: 87
Date: 04/14/2019

Thriller (2019)

2 Stars (out of 4)

Slayed Outta Compton

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

A version of I Know What You Did Last Summer with a non-white cast set in South Central Los Angeles sounded like a great idea, but this amateurish movie fails to follow through on any of its themes. In other words, the boringly-titled Thriller feels like a bunch of loose ends.

In Thriller, a group of kids in South Central Los Angeles decide to play a prank on Chauncey, a kindhearted boy with a stutter. They lure him into an abandoned house and scare him with skull masks. But in a state of panic, Chauncey pushes a girl from a second-story landing to her death. The friends agree to blame Chauncey for the crime, and he is locked away. Four years later, the friends are in Compton high school, and it's Homecoming weekend.

As they prepare for the big game and the dance, asking each other out for dates, Chauncey arrives back in the neighborhood. Soon after, a figure in a black hoodie begins killing all those that were responsible for the prank. Who will survive Homecoming night? Mykelti Williamson co-stars as a police detective. RZA plays the school principal, co-produced, and composed the music.

Even though it runs less than 90 minutes, Thriller spends a great deal of time developing characters, and comes up with very little other than the usual high school cliches: the college-bound smarty, the football star, the nerd, the celebrity-obsessed girl, the troublemaker, etc. The horror/thriller elements are handled poorly, seemingly inspired by the most bottom-of-the-barrel-slasher films.

Victims run and scream and hide in the dumbest of places, fail to turn around and look behind them, and even fall down while being chased. We even get the typical surprise "nightmare" scenes (it was just a bad dream!). Weirdly, the dead girl's twin sister speaks in her voice while looking in the mirror, and nothing comes of this concept, either.

Perhaps worse, the setting contributes virtually nothing to the story, aside from two little speeches — one about having to act "hard" to survive in the streets, and another about a young man's fate being predetermined by the color of his skin — that go nowhere. The only thing Thriller really had going for it is sadly squandered in a totally forgettable movie, a surprise dud from Blumhouse and Netflix.

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