Why You Should Watch: New Year, New You (2018)

Sophia Takal’s New Year, New You is a brilliant genre take on influencer culture, tension in friendships, and how far we should be when punishing people for past transgressions.

From IMDb: A group of old friends gather for a girl’s night on New Years Eve. But as they begin to rehash old memories, many of the gripes they’ve been harboring manifest in murderous ways.

Thanks to the Happiest Season, my wife and I recently started a Hulu trial that quickly became a reason to just have a Hulu subscription. Like every streaming service I have access to, I half-assedly added things to my watch list (“My Stuff” according to Hulu) with very little intention to follow through and watch them. This included a few episodes from Into the Dark. “Episodes” is an interesting word in this case since each episode is almost if not the run time of a feature length movie, so Hulu categorizes them as movies accordingly.

New Year, New You felt appropriate given the time of year, and I was curious to watch something else by Sophia Takal after enjoying 2019’s Black Christmas much more on my second viewing.

Immediately when this film starts, I was blown away by Takal’s abilities behind the camera. Her camera is often subtly moving, hungerly looking for a subtle facial expression or detail to hone in on. Takal’s camerawork is one of my favorite things about Black Christmas and it is present in abundance here.

I also love the 70s aesthetics in some of the cinematography, score, and title credits. It really shows an appreciation for the genre while still planting itself firmly into the 2010s with its exploration of influencers and the culture around them.

The film plays a bit with what is going to happen…is it supernatural? Is it a slasher? Is it more just a thriller? But fear not, because by the end it firmly plants itself in the horror genre.

From left to right: Kayla, Chloe, Danielle, and Alexis

As the IMDb summary mentions, we are watching a group of four old friends from high school get together for a New Year’s Eve party at one’s old house growing up. We have the main character Alexis whose parents’ house they are at, the sarcastic but good-spirited Chloe, the well-adjusted/ unofficial peer mediator of the group Kayla, and their now famous influencer friend Danielle. Danielle runs a brand called #GetWellDanielle full of motivational advice, #Manifestation, and questionable advice for healthy lifestyles. Think Goop meets Rachel Hollis sort of figure. It is revealed that something tragic happened at Alexis’s parents house previously, and it is obviously weighing on some of them more than others. It is also clear Alexis and Chloe are resentful towards Danielle to varying degrees for her success.

The way the movie shows and develops the tensions between the characters is magnificent. I am not usually a fan of watching tensions gradually unleashed between a group of women (much like family drama, I’ve lived enough of it to not want to see it in media!), but this movie does it SO well I was riveted in a way I didn’t expect.

In one scene Danielle (impulsively and without warning) decides to film the group making new year’s resolutions. When Kayla mentions wanting to make a difference “with everything going on in the world”, Alexis stops her and makes her redo her resolution because her audience doesn’t like when things get “too political.” She encourages Kayla to talk about her girlfriend instead of alluding to social justice, making an intriguing distinction between the “right” and “wrong” type of political for an apolitical influencer’s brand.

I mean how can this screen shot not get you intrigued?!

If this film was just about tension amongst a group of old friends, I might not love it so much. But what I really enjoyed is the way it makes you question timeless moral quandaries in a contemporary setting. This film gets into things like if the ends justifies the means, influencing vs. manipulating, using other people’s trauma to make your point, and the polarizing desire to classify people as good or bad.

It reminds me of some of some of the same questions raised by the movie Ghost Stories – namely if a person is manipulating you but you are seemingly benefiting from it (as many influencer followers would claim), is it truly and completely reprehensible? And how much punishment do we deserve for past transgressions?

I know there are a lot of fans of Ghost Stories, but I feel like New Year, New You is superior in exploring these themes while piling on an additional layer of tension and jealousy that can erupt when someone in a friend group “makes it” but you don’t.

The movie effectively ties up its plots and narrative while also instantly leaving you with the desire to rewatch it to catch the subtle clues Sophia Takal sprinkles in along the way. Rewatching this is a masterclass in how a great director can enhance a script with visual clues.

Random Observations:

  • The whole movie focuses on four women, and features eight total characters who are all women
  • The use of mirrors in the movie is exquisite and college-age A Huffle of Horror would have been writing the bejesus out of that analysis. On par with The Invitation which makes me wonder about how beauty standards on women influence female directors to use mirrors to enhance movie themes (not that male directors don’t use them too; the use of mirrors just really stood out to me in these particular films)
  • There’s also a fantastic nod to the Joker and his makeup
  • There are some plot contrivances regarding the house setup but whatever I’m ready to buy it because of this brilliant story
  • Wow thanks for reminding me of TLC’s “Unpretty”
  • There is a queer character, and her girlfriend is briefly featured as well. I like what the movie did with these characters, and also appreciated that the girlfriend looked like she was hired straight (no pun intended) out of “we need a lesbian with the haircut and everything central casting.”

Definitely check this movie out – especially if you enjoyed The Invitation, Ghost Stories, or even Black Mirror to a degree. This is the first film since Get Out that got me so instantly excited I wrote about it the next day. And let’s just keep our fingers crossed we get something else from Sophia Takal soon.

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