Many a movie starts with a bang but Spontaneous does so in a very literal sense as a young girl explodes in class, covering her classmates in blood. There’s no sign of how this happened either, her clothes are completely intact, as is everything surrounding her, and understandably everyone’s a mixture of terrified and confused. Even worse is the fact that our narrator Mara (Katherine Langford) informs us “It happened again. It happened again a lot”.
Directed by Brian Duffield (the writer of Love and Monsters and The Babysitter) from a book by Aaron Starmer, as with those movies the dialogue is impressively naturalistic and fun and Duffield is skilled at creating believable and likeable characters who have terrible things happen to them. On that front it’s also one of the tensest comedy horror films I’ve ever watched, as at any point one of the cast might explode all over the place, concerns that they express themselves as every so often someone does just that.
Once several people have “popped” the students are all dragged off to quarantine and experimented upon, all the while Mara and her new boyfriend Dylan (Charlie Plummer) fall for each other more and more. The film has a refreshingly honest relationship with drugs and sex, both of which are dealt with in a positive manner, and it’s also s nicely inventive, including some flashbacks to Mara and her best friend Tess (Hayley Law) when they were youngsters, Mara’s minor hallucinations are amusing in the casual manner they’re portrayed, while a number of spontaneous explosions are soundtracked to All That Jazz’s “Bye Bye Life”.
Eventually the scientists believe they’ve cured the problem with a pill called “The Snooze Button”, but you’d be foolish to believe that with fifty minutes left that someone isn’t going to be covered in blood once again. The second half of the movie is eventful to say the least, but revealing what happens and the different directions the film takes would ruin the effect and this is a film which is best watched without any knowledge of how it all pans out.
Langford and Plummer have real chemistry while the rest of the young cast are great too, and Rob Huebel and Piper Perabo have minor but fun roles as Mara’s very supportive parents. It’s an affecting, sweet and only occasionally horrific tale, one which is unflashily directed but effectively so, and though I’ve been very fond of Brian Duffield’s work beforehand with this he’s finally created a film which is satisfying from start to end.