You Might Be the Killer is a deeply satisfying meta-horror comedy love letter to the slasher subgenre.
The film was inspired by a brilliant, spot-on twitter thread between writers Chuck Wendig and Sam Sykes (click here to read it in full) that quickly went viral. In the thread, Sam reaches out to Chuck to seek advice when his new position as a summer camp counselor puts him in a bit of an odd spot. There’s a serial killer on the loose, and counselors are dropping like hacked-and-slashed flies. Through their conversation, Chuck guides Sam to the unsettling realization that he might actually be the one responsible.
Director Brett Simmons (Husk, Animal) – who also wrote the script with Covis Berzoyne and Thomas Vitale – succeeds in creating a film with his own voice and energy, while honoring the spirit of the source material. The script maintains Sykes and Wendig’s chemistry and comedic voices while fleshing out an 80-tweet long conversation into 90 minutes of film.
Some of the dialogue comes directly from the thread, but it never comes off as disingenuous thanks to pitch-perfect performances from Fran Kranz (The Cabin in the Woods) and Alyson Hannigan (Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
It’s not hard to understand the moral complexities of the position that both Sam and Chuck find themselves in. Sam is struggling to find some kind of win-win resolution as Chuck balances feelings of concern and – due to her vast knowledge of and passion for the subject – reluctant enthusiasm. Which, honestly, kind of makes sense. As a horror fan, if you got a call asking for advice on a stereotypical subgenre situation, wouldn’t you feel just a little bit excited?
You would. Don’t lie.
If you’re at all familiar with Kran and Hannigan’s prior work, you’ll know that they’re both gifted actors with strong emotional range and natural comedic timing. It’s incredible that they were never acting in the same room together – they didn’t even read lines off-camera – because the flow and chemistry of their conversation is absolutely seamless.
The casting of Hannigan as Chuck is inspired. She shows a natural understanding of the emotional content of the script and walks that fine line with such charm and confidence that you one hundred percent would want to call her for advice on literally any topic. She’s the perfect straight man, and we feel safe with her there as a voice of reason. And Hannigan is so comfortable sliding into research mode that you half expect to see the rest of Buffy’s Scooby Gang poring over ancient tomes in the background.
Although You Might Be the Killer embraces the meta-horror comedy subgenre, it doesn’t entirely dismiss the ethics of the slasher situation. The stakes are still very high, and Kranz’s performance as Sam leans in to that moral crisis.
Kranz is able to channel a manic energy that – with just subtle changes in performance – can be hilarious and slapstick one moment, and frantic and distressed the next. He is so earnestly likable that it’s easy to connect with him and root for his character. Kranz carries the viewer through a range of emotional levels that give depth and emphasis to the outrageous slasher setting.
You Might Be the Killer flips the script on classic horror tropes while paying homage in a truly loving way. Simmons shows his passion for the genre with the inclusion of visual references, dialogue, and set/prop designs that act as a clear nod to horror favorites and genre stereotypes.
These details are part of what makes You Might Be the Killer such a deliciously fun film for any horror fan. But, as much as we love our slashers, there can be some problematic elements.
The final girl character is traditionally a young, sexually unavailable, morally superior survivor, and she is rarely a woman of color. In You Might Be the Killer, one particular conversation in the third act slyly addresses this stereotype with a subtle insinuation that’s threaded through the dialogue.
You Might Be the Killer climbs inside the slasher subgenre to explore its tropes from a different perspective. It’s a cheeky and super meta experience that may be lost on anyone without at least a passing familiarity of the horror genre. That said, the clichés are so broad that they’re hard to miss.
The film really finds strength with the right viewing experience. I had the opportunity to see it on a big screen as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival, and it’s certainly the type of movie that is best seen with a group of excited genre fans.
You Might Be the Killer is an effective, satisfying meta-horror comedy in the vein of The Cabin in the Woods, but on a more intimate scale that will feel deeply personal for any 80s slasher fan. Brett Simmons graciously shares his love for the horror genre and – in the process – shows that he is a name to watch for.
You Might Be the Killer is now streaming on demand on SyFy. For more on You Might Be the Killer, click here to read my interview with Brett Simmons and Fran Kranz! You can check out the trailer and poster below.