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Explosively Dull: Sickle's take on "Spontaneous"

Spontaneous follows a high schooler who, along with her fellow students, begins to rethink their young lives as other students start spontaneously combusting.

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Spontaneous Review

Well, I'm not gonna waste a review...after all, this movie does technically appear in the "horror" section of streaming services...But, let's be clear. If you're going into Spontaneous expecting even a horror comedy, prepare to be disappointed.

Spontaneous has a decent amount of blood, sure. And the premise stinks of a violent horror comedy. But I'd be hard-pressed to define it as such. The film plays out like a rip-off of Juno with spontaneous combustion thrown in. The violent symbolism cleverly acts as a metaphor for the struggles of being a teenager and the volatile nature of the young adult perspective, but the intrigue ends there. The film is a paint-by-numbers dark indie dramedy that hides behind its bloody premise. The script's framework operates within the environment of exploding teens, but the meat of it is a coming-of-age tale about a girl who deals with the implications of growing up, love, and making life-defining choices. The spontaneous combustion is a nice way to accentuate these all-too familiar tropes, but it isn't enough to redefine or engage.

The most interesting element of the whole thing is the "we could literally die at any moment", but as the stakes are seemingly raised with every exploding kid, the urgency doesn't seem to increase with it. Rather than pursue a variety of experiences and reactions to the abrupt chaos, the film chooses to mostly sulk along and take its time instead of fully exploring the wide array of emotions this situation would cause. When it becomes clear the spontaneous combustion is just an excuse to introduce some dark levity and uniqueness to an otherwise bland and predictable script, the film becomes an eye-rolling drag.

Rather than treat the situation as "what would a cynical, emotionally volatile teenager do in an unprecedented scenario?", the film spends too much of its time saying, "how can we work in this quirky concept into a cookie cutter indie story?" The stakes never feel high, perhaps outside of one moment, but even in that moment it feels expected and standardized. That happens in every indie drama, there's just a little more blood. Even the mundane "treatment" of the situation feels underwhelming and disappointing. We feel as bored and trapped as the teens locked away in a facility as the government tries to find a cure. It's never scary, it's never engaging, and whenever it manages any sense of nostalgia, it feels predictable and pedantic.

While I technically get the classification of "horror" (I mean, where else are you going to put a movie that is, at the end of the day, about kids exploding randomly?), the film feels nothing like it, even from a horror comedy perspective. The spontaneous combustion, despite being front and center throughout, feels secondary and simply there as a half-hearted plot device to drop patronizing narrated monologues about how hard it is to be a teenager. So spare yourself the trouble and skip this one. Chances are I saved you an hour and a half of your day.

Horror Rating System

Horror Qualifier: 5/10

Horror Quality: 2/10

Film Quality: 5/10

#spontaneous #juno

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