Save Yourself is a highly-anticipated film from writer/director Ryan M. Andrews (Sick). When the Canadian premier was announced as part of the line-up for this year’s Blood in the Snow Canadian Film Festival (Nov. 27 – 29, 2015), it sold out almost immediately, prompting fest organizers to quickly arrange a second screening. And it’s easy to see why anticipation is so high. First, Save Yourself stars a wide array of young and emerging genre film talent, each acquitting themselves excellently in their respective roles, and second, the film kicks ass in all sorts of ways.
Save Yourself begins with a girl in a very precarious place. She’s bound and gagged in a basement, taunted by a woman whose plans for her are more nefarious than merely inviting her to Thanksgiving dinner. Just as the tormentor pours gasoline on her potential victim, another girl runs downstairs just in the nick of time, baseball bat in hand. The victim and her rescuer are played by Tianna Nori (The Demolisher) and Jessica Cameron (Truth or Dare, A Grim Becoming). Together, they are sister actresses Kim and Sasha Tobin, and as the camera pulls back, we learn that the opening scene is actually a film entitled “Xploitation” and both actresses are in the audience. (Well Kim is at least; Sasha’s in the projection room receiving a bit of, shall we say, pleasures of the more adult kind.)
As the film unspools before an excited audience, the director, Crystal Lacroix (played by the formidable Tristan Risk of American Mary and The Editor), leaves the cinema for a smoke and some self-loathing. Seems she’s not pleased with her film nor the direction of her career, and laments having to keep up with the “ankle biters” that have taken a prime festival slot away from her.
Après-screening, the actresses want to stay and party, but Crystal runs a tight ship and there’s an upcoming screening in L.A. to get to. So with the road beckoning, the director, her actresses, the producer and the writer jump in the car to make the night’s drive to the next destination.
En route, Crystal stops to grab a smoke. When a half hour goes by with no sign of the director, the rest of the coterie are understandably worried. The four remaining girls debate whether to split up and go looking or to stay at the car and wait. (Quoth the writer, “I have never written a script where splitting up is a good idea!”) Nonetheless, three of the four decide to search while Sasha opts to remain in the vehicle.
The search party encounters a large home in the middle of nowhere and debates knocking on the door to ask to use a phone, but as they’re outside pondering what to do, the mistress of the house, Astrid Sauter (Bite’s Elma Begovic), gives them a less than hospitable welcome. Her husband Chris (the indefatigable Ry Barrett of Ejecta, The Demolisher and The Drownsman in yet another solid performance) is a little more welcoming and invites the trio in for tea.
Those who have traveled down horror’s road a time or two before probably can guess where this is going, and to a certain extent, they’d be right. However, Andrews is too good a writer/director to stick to the tried and true. The final third of the film is bonkers in all the right ways, and the lip-smackingly delicious dénouement was one that this reviewer did not see coming.
Andrews’ talent behind the camera is undeniable. But the real takeaway from Save Yourself is the sheer awesomeness that is Tristan Risk. Her indelible portrayal of Beatress in American Mary introduced her to horror audiences as someone with a great deal of potential, and Save Yourself is the film that is going to fucking make her. She’s that good.
Save Yourself is the real deal. It’s nicely paced, smartly crafted, and uniformly well-acted. While not an out-and-out gorefest, the film can hardly be called restrained and boasts some incredibly effective and well-rendered practical grue gags courtesy of our friends at The Butcher Shop.
If Save Yourself comes to your town, do your self a favor and drop everything right away to go see it. It’s 91 minutes well spent.
**** (out of five)
CHECK OUT OUR INTERVIEW WITH DIRECTOR OF SAVE YOURSELF, RYAN M. ANDREWS