October 17, 2022
by Carla Hay
Directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen
Culture Representation: Taking place in an unnamed part of the Pacific Northwest, the horror film “Significant Other” features a predominantly white cast of characters (with one Asian person) representing the middle-class.
Culture Clash: A dating couple travel to an isolated wooded area for backpack hiking and camping, but they encounter something sinister that changes their lives forever.
Culture Audience: “Significant Other” will appeal mainly to people who don’t mind watching unimaginative and slow-paced horror movies.
“Significant Other” blandly rips off plot developments from other movies about terror in a remote wooded area and sci-fi body horror. The acting is unremarkable. Everything in the movie looks like a lazy imitation of other films with the same ideas. The ending of the movie is so sloppily edited and underwhelming, it looks like the filmmakers ran out of ideas.
Written and directed by Dan Berk and Robert Olsen, “Significant Other” was shown as a sneak preview at the 2022 edition of New York Comic Con in New York City. One of the movie’s biggest flaws is that it takes too long to get to any real horror. And even then, that horror is mind-numbingly predictable. It’s yet another horror flick about people stranded in a wooded area where something dangerous is about to happen.
“Significant Other” has a very small number of people in its cast. The two characters with most of the screen time in “Significant Other” are a couple who’ve been dating each other for the past six years. Unfortunately, because so much of the movie revolves around just this dreadfully dull couple, the movie gets bogged down in a lot of wishy-wishy drama about how these two people handle their relationship.
Ruth Miller (played by Maika Monroe) and her boyfriend Harry (played by Jake Lacy) have driven to this wooded area somewhere in the Pacific Northwest, for what Harry hopes will be a romantic getaway of backpack hiking and camping. (“Significant Other” was actually filmed in Oregon.) Ruth is reluctant to go on this trip because she says these activities make her nervous. Therefore, Ruth is already in a bad mood when they begin their trip.
Harry assures Ruth about the trail they’ll be taking on their hike: “This is the fourth time I’ve done this trail. There’s nothing scary about it.” He also comments to Ruth, who loves to surf, how he thinks it’s interesting that hiking makes her more frightened than surfing. Ruth says she’s comfortable with surfing because she grew up around the ocean. It’s at this point in the movie that you know there’s going to be a scene in the movie where Ruth’s swimming skills will come in handy.
Some more low-key bickering happens between Harry and Ruth. Unbeknownst to Ruth, he plans to propose marriage and give her an engagement ring on this trip. The problem is that Ruth is very cynical about marriage. As she says later in the movie, after Harry proposes, “All that marriage does is lock you in, and you lose control of your life.” Stung by this rejection, Harry tells Ruth that she’s probably afraid of marriage because she’s still bitter about her parents’ divorce.
The couple’s bickering turns into a full-blown argument. Ruth’s mental health issues (she has panic attacks) and her therapy treatment are discussed at length. Harry often has a condescending tone with Ruth about her psychological fragility, which makes him look like not quite the nice guy he first appeared to be in the beginning of the movie. Ruth (who does a lot of pouting and vacant staring) isn’t exactly easy to deal with though, because she’s very neurotic and moody.
Meanwhile, during all these time-wasting scenes, viewers will be wondering if “Significant Other” is a horror movie or a very boring relationship drama. Will Harry and Ruth resolve their differences? Will Ruth change her mind about marrying Harry? Will anyone watching this movie really care? “Significant Other” makes this couple’s relationship so lackluster, the answer is a resounding “no” to the last question.
There’s a little bit of a foreshadowing of the horror that might happen later, when a deer is shown in the woods getting attacked from behind by something that has a tentacle. And then, there are repetitive scenes of Ruth becoming afraid because she thinks she saw a deer in the woods. Harry reassures her every time that there’s no reason for her to be frightened.
In the last third of the movie, Harry and Ruth meet another couple hiking in the woods: spouses Ray (played by Matthew Yang King) and Vivian (played by Dana Green), who encounter Harry and Ruth under some very stressful circumstances. The horror in the movie comes too little, too late. And by the time the big “reveal” happens, it’s all very unimaginative and looks like an inferior patchwork of sci-fi horror clichés that have been done much better in many other movies.
Paramount+ premiered “Significant Other” on October 7, 2022.