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DVD Review: Spontaneous

November 10, 2020

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

Spontaneous, the new teen romance about high school kids who start spontaneously exploding, is one of those films that takes a wild and totally original premise and just, well, runs with it.

Based on the novel by Aaron Starmer, the film, which is arriving on DVD this week, offers an odd but effective mix of gore and emotion that follows the general tropes of the high school romance genre, but with a whacked out twist that makes it feel quite fresh.

The film opens with teenager Mara (Katherine Langford) boredly playing with her pencil in class as the teacher drones on. Suddenly, we see a flash of red and there is blood everywhere; one of her classmates has just exploded, in the first of what will come to be many instances of students bursting like balloons and splattering blood and guts everywhere.

Trust me, it’s as gross as it sounds, and Spontaneous ain’t exactly for the squeamish. Nobody knows why these sudden explosions are happening, but it’s a phenomenon that appears to be confined to teenagers and, more specifically, this school. A sense of panic consumes the student body, and in the midst of it all, Mara starts spending time with Dylan (Charlie Plummer), a nerdy classmate who is inspired by the very real prospect of sudden death to confess the fact that he has a crush on her. The two begin to fall in love, but the threat of exploding looms large over their young love.

How does a film that mixes bloody gore, sweet romance, and teenaged angst work exactly? Well, in the capable hands of first time director Brian Duffield, who also wrote the adapted screenplay, Spontaneous becomes something unexpectedly engaging. Langford and Plummer, the respective stars of the hit teen series 13 Reasons Why and Looking for Alaska, both deliver likeable performances in the leading roles, and their chemistry is one of the most appealing aspects of the film. Langford in particular shows new range, especially as her character veers towards drug abuse and alcoholism with wild abandon.

The cast is rounded out by Piper Parabo and Rob Huebel as Mara’s surprisingly cool parents, as well as Chelah Horsdal as Dylan’s mom, who shares a touching scene with Langford that is one of the film’s most truthful and moving moments. The film also hits different in the age of COVID, and this is one of those movies that weirdly benefits from being released during the pandemic. In one sequence, the kids get quarantined by useless government bureaucrats as they try desperately to find a cure, and these scenes play differently now than they even would have at the beginning of the year.

There is probably also some sort of deeper metaphor here about the unpredictability of being a teenager, but I’m not really sure how deep it goes. Just sit back and enjoy the gross, darkly funny, and strangely poignant ride. Boasting a clever script filled with sharp dialogue and hip movie references, an evocative emo soundtrack, and good performances from its leads, Spontaneous is an entertaining film that does a fine job of adding body horror to the teen romance genre.

Bonus Features (DVD):

The DVD includes no bonus features, but does come with a code for a digital copy.

Spontaneous is a Paramount Home Entertainment release. It’s 101 minutes and rated 14A.

Street Date: November 10th, 2020

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