Significant Other

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Significant Other might just be the craziest movie of the year. For the first 45 minutes, you think you know exactly where the story is going. Then you suddenly realize how very, very wrong you are. The set-up is pretty familiar. A couple, Ruth (Maika Monroe) and Harry (Jake Lacy), go hiking in the Pacific Northwest. She's prone to anxiety attacks, he intends to propose marriage. Every once in a while, Ruth senses something lurking among the trees. We already know an alien being is in the forest because we've seen it kill a deer. It's presumably just a matter of time before they realize it, too. Sounds like Predator meets The Blair Witch Project, right?

Then the “thing” happens. Obviously, I'm not going to tell you what it is. A totally unexpected act occurs. We're shocked. We don't know why it's happened, as nothing thus far has indicated it even could happen. A short time later, the film explains it. Another shock. Okay, so now the plot is going in a whole new direction. You readjust, beginning once again to think you know where the journey is headed. Wrong. A third surprise emerges. Then a fourth and a fifth and a sixth. That's when the realization hits that the movie has taken you far away from where you initially anticipated ending up.

I'll admit that Significant Other is patently absurd. The element of constant surprise requires it to shift tones multiple times. What starts as a relationship drama becomes a thriller, a sci-fi tale, and an outright horror flick. At one point, it even becomes a quasi-comedy. Filmmakers Dan Berk and Robert Olsen (Villains) take pleasure in consistently topping themselves with outrageous twists. That approach works in this case because not knowing where the movie is heading from scene to scene is enormously entertaining. If you can forget common sense and go along for the ride, the result provides a massive amount of fun.

Monroe and Lacy deserve credit, too. They play the early scenes nicely, helping us understand the intermittently complicated relationship between Ruth and Harry. To say anything more about their performances later in the film would be venturing into spoiler territory. The stars clearly understand the intent of the material, though, selling each new development completely. With less committed actors, the unpredictability of the story would cause it to fall apart.

The best way to approach Significant Other is to abandon any expectations of traditional plotting. Buckle up and go for the ride. Even as the movie is pulling the rug out from under you repeatedly, it still manages to work in themes related to the power of love and the torment of anxiety. The final shot, meanwhile, sets up implications for after the credits roll, guaranteeing you'll try to imagine what might possibly come next.

out of four

Significant Other is rated R for violence, gore, and language. The running time is 1 hour and 24 minutes.