DO YOU WANNA KNOW A SECRET
Director: Ty/Thomas Bradford
Year of release: 2001
Country of origin: USA
Running time: 90 minutes
DVD/Blu ray: DVD only
Tagline: "Curiosity Kills".
Casting the spotlight on the slasher genre
Story: At a New England Connecticut college a male student receives a note under his door bearing the message “Do you wanna know a secret”? He’s soon after killed in his dorm room by a masked and cloaked assailant with the crime going unsolved.
A year later the former girlfriend of the victim, now in a new relationship with someone else is travelling down to Florida with her boyfriend for Spring Break. Whilst in Florida they plan to stay at a swanky villa along with several friends.
After settling into their new surroundings the group find that someone seems to have followed them south across the country. It appears that the campus murderer from the year before is back, picking off the friends one by one while taunting them with “Do you wanna know a secret” messages at each crime scene.
Good points: *The appearance of the killer is easily the strongest aspect of things for me as I really liked both the dark cloak and hood costume and the white mask. It seems that this killer guise is something which has been criticised in the past with the opinion being that the mask is cheap looking and the robes type costume too close to those seen in Scream. The mask itself isn’t much like that of Ghostface though and it did the trick for me. I found it effective and creepy. The robes/cloak were very similar to those used in Scream granted but there’s nothing wrong with following something which works. Screams outfit in itself maybe took inspiration from older films like say Rush Week.
*The camera work and cinematography was solid throughout with the use of close ups in particular being well utilised. Close ups of things like an eerie clown statue, a masked figures wall decoration and spilt liquid from a blender assisted with building up a smidgen of a creepy atmosphere. I also noted a really nice transition shot at one point which saw a night sky slowly merge into a fried egg being cooked the following morning. Quite artistic!
The villa/beach house was an attractive setting generally as well and this coupled with some nice scenic landscape shots of Florida at times made for a movie which was pleasing to the eye.
*It’s tough to put into words but the ending had something about it that I liked, a vibe if you like that appealed to me. It managed to capture a traditional slasher feel is maybe the best way to describe it. The old church at night was atmospheric and I appreciated seeing the mask in more detail here as well as slasher staples coming into play such as victims being posed in the pews and the killer getting up when presumed dead. Many may call it cliché but that’s mainly good for me as I enjoy the familiar trappings being laid on with a trowel.
Bad Points: *What lets the film down the most is the cast of characters with pretty much the entire lot of them across the board being unlikeable. I did warm to Oz a little bit as it went on but even he was obnoxious in the early stages. Final girl Beth was perhaps not as bad as the rest either but ultimately was too bland and boring to be of much help. As a result I didn’t feel invested in any of them and didn’t care much one way or the other about their chances of survival.
*With the exception of the very last kill the murders are all a disappointment and extremely tame. The vast majority are off camera with the viewer just seeing the after effects with a bit of blood smeared about. It’s deflating and takes a lot of the fun out of things especially taking into account how unlikeable the cast prove to be. Seeing a proper murder scene for one or two of them with real effort made with the gore effects would have been just the tonic but it’s never delivered. An example of what I mean would be how there’s a decapitation type kill but only a brief partial shot of the head is seen with the face not even visible. It’s evident here how little has been spent in the special effects area.
*Mild spoilers: As I mentioned I did enjoy the ending in one sense but on the other hand it fell largely flat when it came to the writing. Sadly the story doesn’t tie together very well with the secret itself when finally revealed being particularly underwhelming. Not only was it underwhelming but it didn’t even properly explain or justify the killers actions. On top of this they’d shortly before revealed something of the killers background and past family life and I was expecting this to tie into the finale but it didn’t add anything in the end or get fleshed out any further. The previous snippet wasn’t built on at all.
Running through the film there’s a sub plot involving an FBI agent looking into the original murder who’s followed the kids down to Florida from Connecticut. Early on we learn that this guy’s daughter was killed at some point in the past as well so I assumed this would link more into the story by the end. I was thinking maybe it’d be revealed at the climax that she was the first victim of the killer or something. Of course for me to mention it here it didn’t happen which was another disappointment and missed opportunity.
Verdict: As a film which has a really bad reputation and sparks a lot of criticism I was curious to see it for myself. Having done so I don’t think it’s quite as poor as it’s sometimes made out to be. If having to give a black and white conclusion of is it good or bad then its definitely bad but this doesn’t tell the full story as there are some redeeming features. The appearance of the killer is one thing which makes it a lot more bearable. What good stuff there is however is largely undone by an unlikeable cast of characters and an unsatisfactory ending writing wise which doesn’t do enough to bring the story threads together.
Coincidentally I watched a relatively little known Dutch slasher called Sneekweek some time before and the two felt very similar to one another. Do You Wanna Know a Secret felt like a poor man’s version of Sneekweek so I think the Europeans did it better this time.
Bodycount (contains major spoilers):
1)Beth’s old boyfriend: Attacked off camera, seen lying dead on dorm floor.
2)Tom: Stabbed on car bonnet.
3)Tina: Found dead lying on sun lounger with throat cut.
4)Nellie: Throat cut and body thrown into swimming pool.
5)Police man: Pulled off camera into bathroom/toilets. Throat presumably cut with a pool of spreading blood being seen.
6)Pastor Adams: Seen dead sitting in church pews. Killed off camera.
7)Pastor’s wife: Same as husband/#6.
8)Hank: Killed off camera by decapitation. We just see a portion of his severed head.
9)Brad: Impaled on candle holder type implement by Beth and then shot dead by the FBI agent.