I’ll admit it: I was one of those unfortunate souls who just didn’t know what to expect when tasked with viewing and reviewing director Levin Garbisch’s (a great moniker if ever I heard one) latest film Miranda Veil. And to the good credit of the visionary that brought us the wholly unique film I Shall Never Return, this film went in directions that even my jaded/seen everything pop culture senses were pleasantly surprised by. But I’m getting ahead of myself here – Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
With a series of moody and lush opening shots lovingly crafted by cinematographer Josh Andersen, Miranda Veil throws us right into what we think of as the inevitable slasher/horror plot: A sinister would-be serial killer (where’s Dexter when you need him?) has abducted a woman and is being goaded into violently sealing her fate by an ominous voice that only he can hear. However, this is one miscreant with another plan altogether – Seems he wants his first official kill to be “special” and worthy of that dark line of Hallmark Cards only found at Serial Killer Conventions. And so it is that Soren (Zach Steffey in a tour de force) – our Charles Manson hopeful – redirects his energies to picking out a new victim in the form of Last Girl Miranda (the radiant and inspiring Annabel Barrett).
It’s at this point that ye olde film critic (think of me as the cinematic equivalent of a high school guidance counsellor, alas) felt he had the movie pegged: Waking up after an evening of drunken debauchery on the town – said town being that of Barstow, California – Miranda is gifted with a 21st Birthday brunch from her doting father before gearing up to let the real partying begin: Her first genuine night on the town as a legal, card-carrying 21 year old with all of the rights and benefits therein to go out and get good and properly wasted. Unbeknownst to her, Soren lurks just outside her comfortable confines, waiting to pounce on his newly targeted victim. This opening passage has all of the earmarks of classic John Carpenter circa Halloween. And, like that landmark horror film of a bygone age, Miranda Veil slowly begins to weave into its very fabric a genuine feeling of dread; dark clouds are on the horizon for our Final Girl and like the maestro he is, Levin Garbisch pulls that piano wire of suspense quite taunt indeed. As Miranda begins tripping the light fantastic with her bestest pals, I knew with authority exactly which territory I was about to take a ride into. Except, delightfully, I was very wrong.
The most on-point writers/directors know very well whichever genre they’re committing to celluloid, and Garbisch clearly knows his horror film history. But it’s the truly clever and outside the box talent that can take an entire genre and its known tropes and idiosyncrasies and stand them – and us, the audience – on their proverbial ears, uprooting everything we thought we knew. This is no easy sleight of hand, yet the director of Miranda Veil has done just that very thing in this feature. I wonder if he hires out for magic shows; I’d hire him, to be for sure.
So what’s the twist I didn’t see coming? Try this one on for size, Junior Woodchucks: After abducting Miranda, Soren and his intended victim both discover – SPOILER ALERT! – she cannot be killed. Like, literally. And suddenly, what once felt like the tried and true suddenly becomes unique and original, its own creature as inspiring as it is inspired.
Miranda Veil has a lot going for it and must qualify as one of the most genre-busting films I’ve seen in quite some time. Do yourself a solid favor, horror movie lovers: Check out the trailer for Miranda Veil and then check it out on streaming or DVD when it drops July 6!