Directed by Brian Duffield
Written by Brian Duffield (based on a novel by Aaron Starmer)
Starring Katherine Langford, Charlie Plummer, Yvonne Orji, Hayley Law, Rob Huebel, Piper Perabo, Chelah Horsdal, Kaitlyn Bernard, Laine MacNeil, Mellany Barros, Peter Bundic, Doralynn Mui, Bzhaun Rhoden, Jared Ager-Foster, Marlowe Percival, Braeden Shrimpton, Jeremy Arnold, Jarrett Carlington, Clive Holloway
SPONTANEOUS isn’t your typical horror film. It’s bloody and suspenseful. It’s clever and fast paced. But it isn’t filled with chills and thrills. SPONTANEOUS instead is a wry and witty horror comedy that is boppy enough to entertain that person in your life that doesn’t really like horror, yet blood-soaked enough to satisfy that appetite for gore.
13 REASONS WHY and KNIVES OUT’s Katherine Langford plays Mara, a typical teen who simply wants to get through her senior year of high school, make it through life, and eventually retire to the beach with her best friend Tess (Hayley Law). Those dreams are interrupted when one of her classmates spontaneously explodes in the middle of class. Then another classmate explodes. And another. So,z the government comes in and quarantines the class to get to the bottom of all of these spontaneous explosions. Meanwhile, realizing that he needs to quit procrastinating and live while he still has a head on his shoulders, Mara’s classmate Dylan (THE CLOVEHITCH KILLER’s Charlie Plummer) admits he has a crush on her and the two begin an unconventional relationship amidst the government’s futile attempts to solve this explosive situation they are all in.
SPONTANEOUS is a modern version of HEATHERS and pretty much uses that film as both a template to set the wry comic tone as well as the blueprint for the plot. Like Winona Ryder’s Veronica in HEATHERS, Mara is a no fucks given type of girl who sees the high school bullshit for what it is. But the similarities to HEATHERS really didn’t bother me as I feel SPONTANEOUS is interesting on its own. This is mainly due to the lovable quirkiness of Langford’s Mara and the way she flits through life. Langford could have played her as completely aloof, but once Dylan comes into her life, it seems to give her a puzzle piece she never knew was missing. Seeing Mara find someone as weird and carefree as she is really makes for a refreshing relationship to watch unfold.
SPONTANEOUS is an undeniably likable love story set amidst what seems to be a thinly veiled response to the COVID-19 outbreak. Except that it was made before the outbreak, so it feels more like prolific storytelling than anything else. One can’t help but see the closed schools and quarantined students and not think of the current situation of the world. And while this film may not have known how resonant these scenes were when they made them, much of the film is going to resonate far beyond the screen when watching now.
Yes, the explosions are gory with blood spattering everywhere. But everything is played for darkly comic effect. And while it does get repetitious, it remains surprising every time these explosions occur because I was so into watching Mara’s story play out.
There are some weak spots in SPONTANEOUS that stand out. Charlie Plummer’s Dylan just doesn’t have that spark that Langford’s Mara has. He’s likable, but his slouched and beta-male demeanor really doesn’t play well against the in-your-face strength of Mara. You root for Mara to find happiness, but when the film offers up Plummer, you just wonder what she sees in the schlub. He simply has difficulty matching Mara’s energy in almost every scene they share.
SPONTANEOUS also has difficulty coming to an end. It sort of meanders all over the place for the last fifteen minutes and then sort of just stops, not knowing exactly how to wrap things up. While it attempts to cover all the bases, dot all the I’s and say all of the right things. I feel the story of SPONTANEOUS comes to an end much sooner than it actually realizes and because of that it doesn’t end with a bang, but a whimper.
That said, having not seen Langford before in 13 REASONS WHY, I was really surprised at how likable the actress is and how engaged I was in the bold and daring places this story takes her. SPONTANEOUS is not a perfect film, but it does have a wonderful wry wit and a heroine worth cheering for.