In the directorial debut by Andrew Mecham and Matthew Whedon, Behind You relies on the classic haunted house trope to tell the story of two sisters, Olivia (Addy Miller) and Claire (Elizabeth Birkner), following the death of their mother, go to live with their estranged aunt, played by Jan Broberg who will be familiar to some from documentary, Abducted in Plain Sight (2017). Already armed with the knowledge that this house is no good, we don’t expect the two siblings to have much in the way of fun in their new abode.
Immediately the children are notified not to go into the basement and are, in addition warned that any strange noises in the house need no investigation on their part and are likely to be easily explained. This is where it lost me and I’m not sure it ever found me again. Within minutes of what we already assume is going to be a relatively straightforward haunted house narrative, they spoon-feed audiences even more by allowing to the forefront what should only be assumed and guessed at.
There exists a fine line in the horror genre between a predictable narrative being like an exclusive inside joke for horror enthusiasts and calling out what we were already slightly aware of and ruining the surprise. Behind You is like a guest arriving at the surprise party at the same time as the birthday girl. Which isn’t to say that all of its efforts are lost, there are still some great moments that exist within the film, if they’d have followed the mysterious death of Olivia and Claire’s mother, or turned focus to the relationship between Aunt Beth and the neighbour, Charles (Philip Brodie) they could have fleshed out something more substantial. Several intriguing storylines run throughout the film, but none have been made the centrepiece which causes it to flail from one to the other.
Behind You is a showcase of classic haunted house clichés packed into one film. There’s the Candyman-esque chanting of a name into a mirror, a creepy neighbour who knows more than he lets on, demonic possession, traumatised girl who will only speak to her stuffed rabbit, mirror writing and to finish us off, a nice peanut allergy, the knowledge of which doesn’t add to the story or character and just sort of happens and is forgotten about. Everything is revealed before the first half, the characters, much like the narrative are inconsistent with their actions and motives that there’s no real sense of who they are.What does shine through however is the directors’ obvious passion for the genre and their ability to celebrate the parts we all know and love.
Behind You may not be a ground breaking, unique romp into the belly of the genre but for horror connoisseurs it could be a welcome revival of all things that got them hooked in the first place.