What Happens Next Will Scare You is both the name of director Chris LaMartina’s latest film, and the name of the listicle its narrative characters are tasked with creating, for a Buzzfeed style company called Click Clique. Despite the cutesy name, the company’s staff aren’t having much fun at all.
Editor June (Kalima Young) has called everyone in for a late night meeting, with instructions to bring their spookiest viral videos. Investigative journalism has failed to pay the bills, and Click Clique needs an all timer of a Halloween listicle just to stay afloat. While June only divulges the company’s dire financial situation to trusted managing editor Rachel (Melissa LaMartina), every person sitting in the conference room suspects that they’re only one poorly chosen video away from the unemployment line.
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The rest of the film is set up as their pitch meeting. Each staffer has 15 seconds to set the stage for their chosen clips before they are played on the conference room screen. Music critic Lester (Troy Jennings) opts for creepy audio. Style blogger Vanessa offers up a multipart series from a teen fashion Youtuber, while hipster culture writer Eugene (Johnny Marra) lugs in his own VCR to show his choice of VHS moments in their original format. Meanwhile, intern Myra (Rachel D. Wilson), janitor Rooster (Paul Fahrenkopf), and security guard Chuck (John Bennett) just want the writers to hurry up so everyone else can go home.
Genre fans will likely recognize What Happens Next Will Scare You‘s writer/director team of Jimmy George and Chris LaMartina from 2013 cult hit the WNUF Halloween Special, and the pair haven’t lost their touch for uncannily accurate mimicry of retro media styles. The videos run the gamut from early internet jump scare “screamers” to vintage dating service tapes to narrated text crawls and loving homages to 90s paranormal television. The latter item on that list comes complete with a cursedly adorable teddy bear exorcism from WNUF characters Clare and Louis Berger.
The variety of subgenres and terror types — cryptids, creepy clowns, ghosts, and gooey, goopy body horror all have a moment to shine— as well as the short duration of the clips help paper over the classic anthology film problem of the segments being rather uneven in quality. Keep an eye out for a delightfully silly spot involving the world’s most inopportune Bigfoot encounter, and a 911 call gone wrong that is the anthology’s single strongest segment, scarier than it has any right to be due to a very strong voice only performance by actor Nolen Strals.
The primarily practical effects look great for the small budget the crew must’ve had, and all of the actor performances are unobtrusively capable enough. Yet if there is anything that lets the film down, it is the wraparound, which serves little purpose other than to establish a thesis statement about the ways that the gaping maw of instant gratification content creation harms creatives.
The individual characters can be easily identified strictly by their accessories — music guy Lester always has headphones resting on his shoulders, Vanessa is wearing a winter hat indoors for the insouciant fashion slouch of it all— which is a sure sign of personalities sketched way too thin. When one of the chosen clips unleashes a genuine curse on the office, the audience doesn’t know enough about any of these characters to feel a sense of peril. The uniqueness of the kills end up being more of a focus than who might survive the night. Given the film runs a very slight 72 minutes, a bit more time spent on characterization in the connecting narrative would’ve made for a stronger whole.
Fans of Chris LaMartina’s previous films, microbudget indie horror, and the terminally online will likely have an uncomplicated good time with What Happens Next Will Scare You, despite its rougher edges. Audiences not familiar with the film’s volley of virtual references or the beginnings of what appears to be a shared universe with WNUF Halloween Special, will likely feel a little (click) bait and switched by its lack of underlying structure.
What Happens Next Will Scare You will be screening April 2nd, 2022 as part of the Buried Alive Film Festival. Tickets and more info on the fest can be found here.
Wicked Rating– 5.5/10