A meteor streaks through the opening credits, strikes in the woods of the Pacific Northwest, and a hiking couple must contend with what crawls out of it in “Significant Other.”
So what can co-writers/directors Robert Olsen and Dan Berk throw at us that will surprise, shock, amuse and delight from that all-too-familiar set up? Aside from Maika Monroe (“It Follows”) and Jake Lacy (“Obvious Child”)?
Not a whole lot, it turns out. And not much that adds up to anything novel.
Monroe and Lacy play a troubled couple heading into the woods for a hiking/camping trip. He’s big on mansplaining. She’s taking pills for anxiety attacks and trying to tamp down her many fears for this new experience. He minimizes what she’s going through, as a way of reassuring her.
“Nothing scary about it…You’re not going to regret this.”
When she answers his teasing with “You’re a disgusting monster,” we’re supposed to go, “Oh, so THAT’s what foreshadowing is!”
As if the kid at the diner in Portlandia’s version of “Deliverance” asking “Did you see the red star come down?” wasn’t lesson enough.
Berk and Olsen try their best to upend expectations, sometimes even tripping over their own movie’s “rules” and logic. Somebody has an encounter. Somebody says “I haven’t been feeling myself.”
SOMEbody feels the need to explain her or himself to the “significant other” and the audience –after the tentacled alien has taken over his or her body. That’s easily the most absurd scene in a thriller that takes a turn towards dark comedy without bothering to get the “thriller” part right first.
Monroe hasn’t been pigeon-holed into this genre, but she hasn’t broken free of it, either. Lacy’s presence prefigures the movie’s attempted turn towards the comical. They don’t quite work as a couple, partly because he’s been around even longer than her, and she still sounds like a teenager. That makes the age-gap in the relationship seem ickier than it might have on paper (she’s 29, he’s 37).
A clever (and foreshadowed) touch or two notwithstanding, in the end, the filmmakers’ attempts at misdirecting the viewer’s expectations fail and the movie’s endless “on the nose” characters, moments and lines of dialogue overwhelm it.
“Nothing scary about it” about covers it.
Rating: R, for violence, gore and (profanity).
Cast: Maika Monroe, Jake Lacy
Credits: Scripted and directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen. A Paramount+ release.
Running time: 1:24