Gotcha! Review


         Despite a longstanding tradition of using horror films to tackle social issues involving race, among other things, in films like White Zombie (1932), The Night of the Living Dead (1968), Candyman (1992), or The People Under the Stairs (1991), the genre simultaneously often been criticized for the way in which it handles the representation of minority groups. This was the source of comedy in last year’s satirical slasher, The Blackening, which played with the tropes of the genre and its treatment of black characters. Gotcha! is also a slasher with an all-black cast, though it approaches the narrative in a straightforward manner rather than poking fun at the genre’s historical shortcomings.


        Gotcha! begins like many classic slashers have in the past, with a group of young coeds taking a trip to a cabin in the woods where they will inevitably be picked off by a masked stalker. The cabin belongs to the family of Rick (London Scott), though he doesn’t plan on going with his friend group and instead stays home with his girlfriend, Meesha (Jhayla Mosley). Taking the trip to the woods are Rissa (Monae Champion) and Travis (Joseph Phillips Jr.), who are a couple and annoy their other friends with their overly affectionate behavior, while Jalen (Jillian Craighead) and Tone (Devin Banks) are secretly dating and haven’t found a way to confess this to the group. Ke'Onta (Duwan Anderson) is single with his attention focused on Bre (MaKinlee Reynolds), a social media influencer who spends more time on her phone than interacting with the group. Unlike other recent horror movies like The Girl in Cabin 13, Bre’s media-obsession is treated as a mere personality quirk and ends up being a McGuffin rather than moving the plot forward or providing any relevant commentary.


        Upon arriving at their friend’s cabin, the group attempts to make the most out of their break by drinking and hooking up, until a mysterious masked visitor starts to pick them off one-by-one. Those remaining notice their numbers thinning and become aware of the threat before the stalker is revealed.

The one thing that Gotcha! fails to deliver on is the expectation most horror fans have for creative deaths. While the mask used by the stalking figure perfectly aligns with the expectations of slashers, there are too many scenes with characters being bloodlessly dragged out of frame rather than giving the audience the spectacle associated with the sub-genre. There may be a practical explanation for the filmmaking decisions, but this deviation from horror film norms may still be off-putting for the fanbase.


        In addition to a lack of gore (or the effects needed to convincingly portray horror violence), Gotcha! shows its lower budget with cinematography that never quite matches the polished look of a studio release. This would have been easier to forgive with tighter editing, a screenplay with sharper dialogue, or performances that feel slightly more polished. Gotcha! is a first-time effort from co-directors Rockey Black and Jhayla Mosley, and it often shows, though their job is made more difficult with a screenplay that feels more than a little underdeveloped. Even with lengthy sequences watching characters carry out dull daily activities like getting dressed and washing their faces, Gotcha! is still barely long enough to qualify as a feature film. Had there been more material for Black and Mosley to work with, the end result may not have been quite so underwhelming.  


Entertainment Value: 4/10

Quality of Filmmaking: 3/10

Historical Significance: 2 /10

No comments: