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.
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.
Significance: 2 /10