After his friend Paul commits suicide, actor Travis (Ben Hethcoat) agrees to scatter his ashes in the woods where they spent their childhood together. But can Travis let go, or is something else not willing to let him go?
From the outset, Show Yourself is a very different kind of horror movie. It never relies on jump scares and it’s not telling those overused tales of haunted woods or axe-wielding murderers. At its core, it's a story about one of the scariest things of all - losing a loved one. Throughout the film, Ben Hethcoat’s performance as Travis takes us on an emotional rollercoaster as his character attempts to get over the devastating death of his friend.
At the beginning of the film, Travis is a bit of an unlikeable character because of his arrogance, but by the end, the audience is firmly on his side as he completes an unusual but pleasing arc for a character in a horror film. The horror in Show Yourself is less about things that go bump in the night and more about your mind playing tricks on you and not allowing you to let go of the past and move on. As the story progresses, Travis starts to hear strange noises and sees apparitions of what he believes to be Paul, and can’t decipher if he’s going mad or something sinister is after him.
Where the film succeeds in its core narrative and realistic and grounded main performance, it unfortunately stumbles with its slow pace and, at times, clunky and unnatural dialogue. Throughout the film, we learn more about Travis through not only his phone and Skype calls with his close friends but also archived footage of home movies that the friends used to make when they were younger. This footage is also used to relatively effective success when our protagonist is suffering with the despair and discomfort in his head. One scene that stands tall above the rest takes place in a tent where Travis comes face-to-face (so to speak) with his inner demons. He starts to understand why these events happened, and uses this knowledge to help him move on with his own life.
Although some might think that Show Yourself’s ending is quite abrupt and anticlimactic, it actually makes a lot of sense on a symbolic level. Think of it as a physical way of showing the completion of Travis’ character arc and the end of his journey.
Show Yourself will most certainly not be to everyone’s liking, but what makes it stand out from the rest of today’s films in this packed genre is its driven narrative and disciplined portrayal of a man coming to terms with a feeling he has never felt before. Unfortunately, most of its emotional impact is softened due to its lack of exploration into what really goes on inside a grieving person’s mind and, at times, jarring pacing and excessive use of musical scene transitions and interludes.
SHOW YOURSELF / DIRECTOR: BILLY RAY BREWTON / SCREENPLAY: BILLY RAY BREWTON / STARRING: BEN HETHCOAT, CORSICA WILSON, BARAK HARDLEY, STEPHEN CONE / CERT: UNRATED / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW