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Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

Significant Other is an insignificant horror flick

Maika Monroe and Jake Lacy's camping getaway is interrupted by an otherworldly presence in this Paramount+

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Maika Monroe as Ruth in Significant Other.
Maika Monroe as Ruth in Significant Other.
Photo: Paramount+

Does a camping trip ever go well in the movies? Surely there are some examples that work well as REI product placement, but when characters pack their gear and head for the trail, it’s understandable to start hearing Ned Beatty’s squeal in the back of your mind.

Significant Other is the latest example that may make you think about the Bahamas as a preferable vacation option. This low-budget (mostly) two-hander stars Maika Monroe and Jake Lacy as a couple looking to create memories, but who end up facing interplanetary obstacles. The movie, which debuts on Paramount+, is pretty rote for the first half. Given its home on streaming, it’s entirely possible many would-be viewers will give up early on. But at the halfway mark, a little spice gets shaken into the otherwise thin soup. It’s still far from a must-see, but there are rewards for those who stick to the end.

Our two leads, Ruth and Harry, have been together for six years, but it’s clear that Ruth has some serious anxiety issues. (This is brought home by frequent shots of her freaking out and shoving little blue pills in her mouth.) Still, Harry absolutely loves her, and takes her to a gorgeous cliff in the woods to pop the question. She disses him hard, wondering why he would pull such a stunt; she’s been upfront that she’s disinterested in any relationship change. He says he knew it was a risk, but that he still had to try.

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Well, guess what: the relationship is still going to end up changing in some serious ways. Before Ruth and Harry arrived, a weird flaming meteor crashed in the area, and some kind of computer-generated tentacle massacred a deer. It’s only a matter of time before this presence will start causing trouble.

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A B-movie like this (B for basic, perhaps) lives and dies by its performances. Jake Lacy is very good as the extremely nice guy you know will eventually turn bad; no offense to him, but he has a bit of a Tucker Carlson thing going on. (We’re sure that Lacy is absolutely nothing like the loathsome television ding-dong in real life.) But his preppie good looks and is-he-kidding-me smile work well to keep you on edge. (His car locked into a yacht rock station blasting Orleans and Badfinger is an amusing touch, too.) Maika Monroe, unfortunately, is just a bit too ordinary here to do the heavy lifting as the movie’s main character. This is all extremely subjective, naturally, but her performance comes across as limp and, frankly, dull.

To their credit, directors Dan Berk and Robert Olsen (it took two of them to make this picture?) do a few nifty things with the camera when the deer scat really hits the fan. The trees in the woods rotate and dissolve like the inside of a kaleidoscope, there are some chilling split diopter shots, and the use of water (both still and reflective, or raging against treacherous rocks) is effective.

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Without getting too much into its twists and turns, there is a little chunk of this movie where Lacy is permitted to really swing for the fences. He’s quite funny in these moments, and it builds to a story element that feels original: the suggestion that Earthlings are the only beings in the galaxy with the capacity to love. (Dog owners can send their complaints to info@paramount.com.)

There’s also a clever twist in which Ruth has to lean into her own mental health issues—to use firsthand knowledge of depression and crippling anxiety—in order to turn the tables and save herself. “She’s using her own shit!” you may cry out from the couch. Which is nice, because none of the jump scares (and there are many) are likely to inspire as much as a yelp.

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It’s October. There’s a mandate to watch horror movies right now. This is a good thing. But there are a lot of options out there. If for some reason you haven’t pulled the trigger on Shudder and want to get more out of a Paramount+ subscription, this is better than just staring at a blank wall.