Monday, August 5, 2019

I Gotta Crow

With its Peter Pan title and grisly premise, Don't Grow Up sounded right up my alley. 

If only it wanted to go there.

Quick Plot: On a chilly island somewhere in Europe, a group of scrappy foster teenagers discover they've been left alone in their sprawling care facility. After a little too much whiskey, they explore their near-empty town and discover something very, very amiss.

It starts when they chance upon a chatty little girl in the arms of her zombie-staring mother. In a tense, horrifying scene, the mother squeezes her daughter to death, thus revealing some form of outbreak that has turned all the adults into homicidal maniacs.

Think The Children, but reversed. Or Mom and Dad, but not terrible.

Unfortunately, it's also not great. 

Directed by Thierry Poiraud from a script by Marie Garel-Weiss, Don't Grow Up has moments of brilliance but more passages of serious downtime. Running just under 80 minutes, it seems oddly disinterested in nailing any kind of specific pacing. A short horror movie is often a very good thing, particularly when dealing with the kind of murderous outbreak that should have our heroes on the move nonstop. That's just the case here.

You'd think, with that description, that Don't Grow Up would instead be more a character study. It's not, even though it has everything in place to be so. Our leads, the mysterious bad boy with a heart of gold Bastian and the self-proclaimed bored loser Pearl, are played by charismatic young actors who demonstrate plenty of potential. But for whatever reason, we don't really get enough of them in any real meaningful way. They fall flat, as does so much of Don't Grow Up.

We never learn what's causing this behavior, which is by no means a requirement of the genre (see Who Can Kill a Child? or the aforementioned The Children). There's an interesting, also unexplored mystery involved with what constitutes adulthood, as some teen characters turn and others still seem immune. That in itself is a neat theme, but either I'm too dense a film watcher or Don't Grow Up has no real interest in delving deep on the issue. That leaves us with something neither overly thoughtful nor that exciting. 

High Points
That first real scene of horror is genuinely effective, giving me hope that Poiraud has the right instincts when it comes to building tension. Hopefully his next film finds something more solid

Low Points
The overall lack of commitment, both to character and story, just leave Don't Grow Up feeling incomplete

Lessons Learned
In a pinch, perfume makes a decent, fragrant antiseptic

Seeing murdered children is a big hormone booster for British teenagers

Eighteen does not an adult make

My frustrations with Don't Grow Up stem in part from the film's clear ability to have been better. This concept has been executed better. Find it elsewhere.

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