Paramount Plus’ new film pairs the scares of the outdoors with the persistent terror within.
Near an isolated hiking trail in the Pacific Northwest, a red meteor descends from the sky. An unearthly terror emerges into the wood, just as a young couple arrives at the trailhead for their first (and perhaps last?) tandem trek.
Thus begins the plot of “Significant Other,” a new outdoor horror film that debuted last month on Paramount Plus. Per the movie’s description, the troubled pair experiences “sinister events” as they explore both the wilderness and each other, “leading them to realize that everything about the place is not as it seems.”
Let’s face it, the woods can be a pretty scary place. And with just over an hour and 20 minutes’ worth of horror among the tall trees, “Significant Other” breezes by at a thru-hiker’s pace.
But that’s not to say it doesn’t get caught up in a few quagmires along the way. Read on for GearJunkie’s thoughts on this fresh entry into the world of spooky backpacking.
In short: “Significant Other” is an intimate, sometimes messy film that captures the unsettling feeling of a noise outside your tent, or the nervous need to glance back over your shoulder in the woods. The setting, filmmaking, and cast overcome a few bumpy moments to create an unexpected brand of terror that’s as personal as it is otherworldly. It’s a short, solid watch for both gear and horror junkies … with access to Paramount Plus.
Hiking Horror Movie: ‘Significant Other’ Review
“Significant Other” hits the trail with the couple of Ruth (Maika Monroe) and Harry (Jake Lacy). Horror fans will recognize Monroe from her starring role in the 2014 hit “It Follows,” while Lacy has appeared generally in comedy and drama roles (including a stint on the final season of “The Office”).
Aside from another pair of hikers and a mother and son at a roadside store near the opening, that’s it for the rest of the cast. In fact, there are only eight credits listed on IMDB, and two of those are voices offscreen. So for the majority of the film, Monroe and Lacy are left to carry the weight.
And for the most part, they pull it off. As our protagonist, Monroe displays the same mixture of vulnerability and resolve that brought the fright of “It Follows” home. Lacy, meanwhile, straddles the line between charming, pitiable, and unlikeable. But his performance is true to the character, whose complexity grows as the story progresses.
The Plot: Gorgeous but Bumpy
Arguably, the “Red Ridge Trail” itself deserves top billing. The movie’s fictional loop is set in Oregon, with filming taking place at real-life locations including (per Wikipedia) “Silver Falls State Park, Nehalem, Silverton, Cornelius, Cloverdale, Estacada, Sublimity, Eagle Creek, and Sandy.”
And the photography is nothing short of gorgeous. Cinematographer Matt Mitchell captures the moody splendor of the forest and coastline, with help from a strong, atmospheric score by Oliver Coates.
Here, thankfully, are blessedly few needle-jab jump scares from the string section. The soundtrack, like the woods, is dense, unsettling, and majestic.
Which is good, because the rest of the film suffers from a bit of tonal whiplash. Writer/directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen clearly have something to say here about the horror of things unknown and “outside” — not just the world outside your door or creepy-crawlies from another planet.
Through their leading couple, they explore the persistent horrors of relationships, coping, and personal trauma.
But with so many real and intangible monsters crammed into less than 90 minutes, the experience can get a bit messy. Things veer toward goofy around the hour mark, but the movie rights itself by committing to the absurdity of the situation until it morphs into an entirely new kind of horror. There are clever setups and payoffs, several of which earned legitimate cheers from this viewer.
There are some neat little moments for gear-heads, as well, from hiking packs to wardrobe choices. But there are also some strange ones, too — like, who thru-hikes with a full-sized lantern? I’ll let this one slide, as headlamps are decidedly less cinematic.
So, is “Significant Other” the most earth-shattering horror film to come down the pike this year? No, but it’s light-years more watchable than most of the obnoxious, jump-scare fests that make it to theaters.
At its best, “Significant Other” is reminiscent of one of the most memorable and recent entries into wilderness horror/sci-fi, 2018’s “Annihilation” (which, by the way, is also streaming on Paramount Plus).
When it stumbles, it’s because the ideas it’s tackling are a little more complex than a grabby, deer-munching alien. Still, it’s a spooky, slow-burn romp in the woods, with some good scenes and relatable tension to spare.
“Significant Other” is streaming now, free on Paramount Plus.