Volunteer work. Some people do it simply out of the goodness of their hearts; some do it to boost their resume; and some people do it because they are forced to. Whatever the reason, volunteering is supposed to provide one with a meaningful and positive experience. In the indie horror, I Didn’t Come Here to Die, six young humanitarians discover that some volunteer projects require you to get your hands a lot dirtier than they imagined and they may even get you killed.
I Didn’t Come Here to Die, written and directed by Bradley Scott Sullivan, follows a group of individuals posted out in the woods to build a campground. While the group reveals their reasons for volunteering and let their personalities shine through, the project takes an unexpected turn and people begin losing their lives. What first appears to be a vengeful spirit in the woods soon morphs into something else as paranoia, clumsiness, and instabilities take over.
The film opens in the midst of a horrific accident, setting up an uneasy atmosphere from the very beginning. Following the opening credits, the audience is introduced to the group of individuals as they embark on their latest journey. The group of kids is made up of the usual suspects and the scenario that they put themselves into is the typical situation that can be seen in any horror slasher. The difference between I Didn’t Come Here to Die and other slasher films in the genre, is that this film intentionally presents itself as a stereotypical horror — but with a twist. The twist is that the characters are their own worst enemy; not the mysterious figure lurking in the woods with a knife.
I Didn’t Come Here to Die puts a clever spin on the slasher flick with its lack of a slasher and Sullivan does so while rewarding the audience with impressive and believable gore scenes. One scene in particular, involving a character’s face and a chainsaw, is cringe worthy and one that was hard to take your eyes off of. Although the scene was disturbing and horrific, the practical effects and makeup was gorgeous, especially in a film with a low budget. The scene was played out perfectly by the actors and the amount of screen time devoted to the death was just right, making one on edge for what else was to come.
Not only did the film set up a sense of paranoia for the audience, it also rewarded us with small homages to past horror movies, such as The Evil Dead and The Shining. The film contains some evil trees and although they don’t get rapey, they provide the characters with enough torment to keep them frightened.
While the movie contains plenty of situations to scare viewers, it also contains elements of campy humor played out by characters, Miranda (Madi Goff) and Chris (Niko Red Star), as well as in specific scenes like the last frame of the film. Although Miranda and Chris’ characters were presented to be annoying and unlikeable, the performances by the actors made them bearable to watch and actually made me look forward to viewing them on screen.
Most of the performances in the film were enjoyable and good, even when they weren’t necessarily good and had shoddy dialogue. Although he does not stand out in comparison to Goff and Red Star, actor Kurt Cole who plays Danny, held his own throughout the movie and had the ability to make the audience empathize and root for him until the very end.
Decent performances aside, the movie has an attractive 70’s-80’s feel to it, transporting audiences back to a time when slasher films were King and true rock and roll ruled the radio. These elements help make the movie stand out for viewers; however, they aren’t enough to make it come out on top when compared to other horror movies that have done the same.
When watching I Didn’t Come Here to Die, it’s hard not to be reminded of the 2010 horror comedy, Tucker and Dale vs Evil, which basically had the same premise. In my opinion, the latter did a much better job of balancing the scares and humor and it also included a much better cast. That being said, I Didn’t Come Here to Die is still worth watching because it is a fun flick.
Considering the low budget, the laudable performances from the unknown cast, the practical special effects, and the atmosphere that the movie creates, I Didn’t Come Here to Die was a good horror movie. It took a bland subgenre that has been done countless times and revamped it by injecting it with humor and an unusual “villain”.
The only problem that I had with the movie was that it didn’t balance the humor and horror well enough and it didn’t stand out in comparison to films that have done similar concepts. Regardless of my reservations, I would recommend the film because it does not disappoint in delivering viewers what they want to see in a slasher — a bunch of stupid kids getting themselves killed, in clever and brutal ways.