I don’t know about you guys, but if I were a sinister spirit that hid in a mirror for nearly two decades only to finally replace my twin sister and take over her life, the last thing I would want to do would be to endure the mundanity of high school life. But that’s just what happens (maybe) in Look Away, a movie in which a high school student, Maria (India Eisley), does the body-swap thing with her evil twin who lived in a mirror. Or maybe she just suffers a psychotic break. I like that idea better, to be honest, and to the movie’s credit, there’s ambiguity there.
Maria is a loner who gets bullied, only has one true friend—whose loyalty she questions—and spends most of her time ignoring the world and the suggestions from her parents (Jason Isaacs and Mira Sorvino) to improve herself. She’s not an easy protagonist for whom to root; a lot of her problems seem self-induced. Regardless, we spend some time watching her terrible life before she looks in the mirror and it talks back to her. The thing looking back at her, which looks and sounds like her, is going to take over her body and fix her life for her. So the tale goes…
What follows is a horror movie where Maria gets to do things she wouldn’t normally do—nor would most people—and sometimes people die. Do you remember the one good scene of Before I Fall? The one where the protagonist decides to say “screw it” and indulge in fantasy for a day? This movie is like that, but for 3/4 of the running time, and also more sinister. In short: it’s fun.
It never gets much more than fun—whatever depth it has is attributed directly to the “is it a spirit or is it mental instability?” aspect and that’s never exactly resolved, so it’s pretty limited in the character department—but it works out otherwise. Maria isn’t much of a character; she’s more of an avatar to let us see some killer put-upon high school student scenes. There’s not much to the supporting characters. Her mother and father have something to them but it needed more exploration, while the other students are absolute nothings.
But is it scary? Not especially, but it is creepy and unnerving. It does cringe in a way that puts you off and on-edge, and there’s a certain camp value to some of its moments, too. India Eisley does a good job in the lead—and in dual roles, technically. The transformation from Maria to Other Maria is not as stark and over-the-top as some might play it, which works in her favor. The subtlety works toward keeping the “what” ambiguous and keeps us intrigued.
I’ll say this for Look Away: It’s better than either of the Mirrors films. That might not be saying a ton; those are not especially good movies, after all. But it allows us to watch our protagonist go rogue on high school and its students, all while delivering a constant unnerving feeling to the audience. You can do a lot worse. This one’s fun enough to be worth the time investment. It’s not the scariest movie but it’s enjoyable, engaging, and somewhat campy. And that’s pretty solid for a direct-to-video horror movie.
Conclusion: It’s not the most original movie out there, but Look Away is fun enough to be worth the time.
Recommendation: If you like teen horror movies, Look Away is worth checking out.