Film Review: I Still See You

There’s too much science, not enough fiction, in this sci-fi spook-show.
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Some movies don’t have enough ideas. I Still See You has too many.

The sci-fi/mystery/young-adult mash-up is set in Chicago, a decade after “The Event.” That was a super-secret scientific experiment that released an “energy wave”—something like a non-radioactive neutron bomb that left the buildings standing but reduced people to dust.

Well, not quite. What it actually left behind were ghostly human “remnants”—“rems,” for short—who occasionally appear in small, tightly proscribed loops, forever crossing the street, or picking up the paper, before returning to ashes. It’s like the end of the last Avengers movie, only without Josh Brolin yelling at everybody.

Meanwhile, one particular “rem” seems to be showing up around the teenage Veronica a lot. Which might not be too bad—he’s a handsome boy in extremely tight underwear and, like all the other “rems,” at least he doesn’t bore by saying anything. Still, he seems to be trying to warn Veronica about something, something she needs to run from.

Maybe this movie?

The film is based on a novel, Break My Heart 1000 Times, and there’s so much sci-fi jargon to get straight, you may sometimes feel you’re with the characters in physics class, struggling through a pop quiz. (Psst—what the heck is “spectrum transference”?) Yet the movie seems more intent on explaining equations than developing real characters.

Veronica is nothing more than a piece on a gameboard, moved around from situation to situation. She advances the story, but remains stuck in simple, plucky protagonist mode. And even for ghosts, the “rems” themselves are particularly insubstantial—Smiling Dad, Sweet Old Lady, and other one-dimensional cutouts. 

Strangely, overstuffed as it is with plot, I Still See You still manages to be drearily dull. “In a world where the dead walk among the living, nothing is as it seems,” one character portentously explains, but the problem is, everything is exactly as it seems, and has seemed in countless other movies. There are no surprises, and the addition of a supposedly mysterious killer fails to add any mystery. (If you can’t figure out who it is early on, you’re simply not watching.)

Nor does the cast contribute much. As Veronica, Bella Thorne, her hair now dyed oh-so-edgy black, just comes across as Krysten Ritter’s younger, unfunny sister; Richard Harmon, playing the gloomy transfer student who helps her figure out what’s going on, looks like an even angstier and more anemic Tobey Maguire. The few sparks of life added by Dermot Mulroney as their science teacher only throws into relief how lifeless the rest of the movie is.

Director Scott Speer makes a few desperate attempts to add some style, shooting one scene washed in blue light and reducing another sequence to mostly gray. But the location work—Manitoba trying to pass for Illinois—never convinces and there are no real scares. “I see dead people”? We’ve seen that before. But never in quite so deadly a fashion.