Three high school friends — Peter, Lucy and Kat — decide to visit the site of a local murder, an abandoned old home that has fallen into disrepair. They discover a book on how to summon demons at the house, and somehow bring forth one, which promptly takes over Peter’s body.
Lucy and Kat work frantically to try to save their friend from demonic possession, encountering Segway-riding bullies, a jerk of a gym teacher and a local drug lord along the way. But their biggest obstacle to their tight-knit friendship may be the new Peter himself, who has other plans and a thirst to explore his newfound demonic powers.
Writing and directing duo Carl Fry and Nic Bonesteel’s short horror-comedy is clearly a homage to the cult classics of the 1980s and 90s, with an attendant penchant for parody and a willingness to be “extra,” whether it’s the silliness of performances that make fun of the teen films it takes as inspiration, or the amped-up craftsmanship and special and practical effects. There are echoes of cult films like Blair Witch Project, Evil Dead and Halloween — legendary horror director John Carpenter is clearly an inspiration — but the film has a zany exuberance all of its own that makes it a lot of fun to watch and enjoy.
The storytelling is jam-packed with ideas, jokes and events, veering from one incident to the next, and the pacing percolates along at a jaunty, breakneck rhythm. The narrative follows a familiar template by design, being a homage to a subgenre, and the film packs a lot of story into a short format. It almost feels like a feature crammed into a short film, and there are parts where the narrative throughline loosens a bit, as the story races from one knotty predicament to the next.
But the dynamism of the film’s craftsmanship, not to mention its infectious spirit of fun, keep it aloft, as do the likable, energetic and consciously silly performances of its collective young ensemble of actors. There’s a definite polish and agility in the camera, editing and effects that bring forward momentum and adrenaline to the story, making stylistic audacity a source of momentum and energy. And when the action picks back up and barrels forward, it rewards viewers with a climax that is equal parts horrific, goofy and oddly touching — and spins itself off into an unexpected direction of madcap mayhem and bloodshed.
“Something’s Wrong With Peter” fits neatly into a growing trend of affectionate nostalgia in horror, combined with comedy and teen spirit. But its energy and craft is entirely contemporary, with sharp, irreverent humor and savvy about its lineage and inspirations. It knows sometimes these tropes are ridiculous, and while it pokes fun at them and the genre’s sometimes over-reliance on them, it recognizes the enjoyment at the heart of horror’s endurance over generations. “Something’s Wrong With Peter” is well-crafted but never takes itself too seriously, and it’s eager to have a good time and take audiences on a wild, imaginative ride, in a world often devoid of wildness or imagination.