The Colorado Festival of Horror is happening this weekend and I am thinking of going on Saturday, so if any of you are attending, keep an eye out for me! If I go, you can expect a special post about it on Monday!
Level 16 is a 2018 sci-fi thriller written and directed by Danishka Esterhazy, starring Katie Douglas, Celina Martin, Peter Outerbridge, and Sara Canning. The movie follows a group of young girls living in a strict school which is keeping them safe from the toxic world outside while grooming them to be adopted as daughters into unknown families. Eventually, two of the girls decide to find out the truth behind the “school” and what happens to the girls after level 16.
I had no idea what I was getting into with this movie, but Level 16 quickly sucked me in. The movie is a dystopian, sci-fi reimagining of The Lord of the Flies, but instead of boys, there are girls who are bred for purity and obedience. The bleak setting and strict routines create an oppressive atmosphere, accented by the girls’ fear of being found unclean.
The movie definitely gives The Handmaid Tale vibes, especially because of the values the girls are taught and the videos they are made to watch, and the dread ramps up when the protagonist is approached by another girl who begs her to stop taking the vitamins. Then a whole other side of the school is revealed.
The whole premise of the movie was excellently executed and, overall, the acting was superb. I was sucked in completely and the ending nailed it. At the end of the movie, I was left feeling haunted by the themes in Level 16, but ultimately satisfied with the story. Just an excellent, excellent film!
I go into a bit more detail after my spoiler line, but avoid that section if you haven’t watched the movie yet.
SPOILER SPOILER SPOILER
I’ll be outlining some aspects about the ending of the movie so you really want to avoid this section if you haven’t watched Section 16 yet.
So the big reveal is that the girls are not being bred as daughters or for some sexual thing as I started to suspect. Instead the movie takes a hard right turn and it’s revealed that the air and water in the outside world isn’t toxic, the girls are being raised in this horrible prison until they are sixteen. At that point, their skin could be harvested and given to rich women desperate to retain their youth. I thought that was a brilliant twist! Just chef’s kiss.
I also liked that the two female lead characters controlled their own fates, by helping the other girls escape, and then saving themselves. The Russian police do show up eventually, but only after the girls managed to survive the night. I was really happy the movie didn’t make them into helpless victims who needed saving. I truly, truly appreciated that.
I also liked the commentary this had on the beauty industry and the standards women place on retaining their youthful appearances. Overall, a suspenseful, well-acted film with a well-rounded theme.