WATCHING THE DARK – “You Can’t Run Forever”

Welcome to Watching the Dark, a new regular column featuring essays and articles about horror films. Written by Terry Morgan.
You Can’t Run Forever from Lionsgate

I’ve been a critic for more than three decades, focused primarily on theater and cinema, but scary movies have always been a not-so-guilty pleasure of mine. These films are often a gateway for young directors and actors to begin their careers, they frequently can deliver social messages that other films struggle with, and the form seldom gets the artistic credit it often deserves.

There’s a lot to discuss.

This is why it’s somewhat unfortunate that the first movie to be reviewed here in ArtsBeatLA’s new horror-themed column is the new thriller You Can’t Run Forever which, sadly, fails to thrill.

Production photos from Lionsgate.

Teen Miranda (Isabelle Anaya) is suffering from anxiety. Her father died a year ago, and her mother, Jenny (Fernanda Urrejola), has married Eddie (Allen Leech) and is about to have a child. Miranda takes medicine for her stress, but she seems to find the most relief in climbing tall trees. One day, during a gas station stop, Eddie and Miranda encounter the oddly menacing Wade (J.K. Simmons). Shortly thereafter, Wade violently attacks them on the road, causing Miranda to flee for her life through the nearby forest. As Wade pursues her for mysterious reasons of his own, Miranda has to try and overcome her anxiety and terror to survive.

Anaya is more effective in scenes in which she gets to be a snarky teenager, mouthing off to Wade or kidding around with Eddie, than she is in her panicked screaming sequences, which sometimes seem a bit over the top (although this may be the fault of either direction or editing). Urrejola is quite convincing as the worried Jenny, and one only wishes that her character had more to do in the story. Leech is appealing as stepfather Eddie, attempting to connect to Miranda. Simmons is a veteran at funny/frightening characters, and he’s the best thing in the film, unsurprisingly. Wade is amused at the situations he finds himself in, pleasantly chatting with his dead victims or (in one memorable moment) propping his feet up on a corpse as he casually lights up a joint. Simmons has fun with the role, but it’s not enough to counterbalance the movie’s problems.

Director Michelle Schumacher benefits from the beauty of the Montana locations and Pietro Villani’s handsome cinematography, but she doesn’t generate suspense here and even the few jump scares don’t connect. The main problem with Forever is its script (co-written by Schumacher and Carolyn Carpenter), which lacks style or originality. The character back stories are fine, except for Wade’s, whose motivations for a blithe killing spree (“Does it matter?” he asks) aren’t especially convincing. The details of how Miranda deals with her anxiety (counting “Five things I can see” to center and calm herself) add specificity and interest. Several plot points seem dubious, from Jenny having a psychic connection moment to a group of teenagers venturing out into the nighttime woods to find Miranda while a gun-toting maniac is also known to be there. Finally, one will not be surprised to read that at some point during the conclusion of the story, Miranda climbs a tree.

You Can’t Run Forever doesn’t quite succeed in its chosen thriller subgenre – hero/heroine pursued by indefatigable killer – but there are plenty of other great films that do, including Alone and It Follows.

Terry Morgan


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