"Departing Seniors" makes for a solid, likable slasher with a "Dead Zone" twist

Departing Seniors (2024)

Many humor-laced slasher films today have cleverly mashed together a killer-on-the-loose plot with a familiar high-concept hook. Instead of body-swapping or time travel this time, "Departing Seniors" is a high school slasher by way of "The Dead Zone" (and maybe a little "Final Destination"), in which our hero is suddenly able to see a person’s future with a mere touch. Debuting director Clare Cooney and writer Jose Nateras make do with a 16-day shooting schedule and a very modest budget to pull off such an ambitious premise with likable performances and actual concern for their characters. 

The senior class of 2019 at Springhurst High is slowly diminishing. After a star swimmer dies in an apparent suicide (but it was actually murder by a killer in a drama club theater mask), it’s just the start of entitled jocks getting taken out. Good riddance, at least for Javier (Ignacio Diaz-Silverio), an openly gay photographer for the school newspaper. He only has seven more days until graduation, but that doesn’t stop the bullies. His biggest allies are movie-fan best friend Bianca (Ireon Roach) and their AP English teacher, Mr. Arda (Yani Gellman, or for all of the fellow "Lizzie McGuire Movie" fans out there, Paolo). Otherwise, preppy class president/valedictorian perfectionist Ginny (Maisie Merlock) is the meanest of all, complicit even when her letterman-jacket boyfriend Trevor (Cameron Scott Roberts) and his closeted friend Brad (Sasha Kuznetsov) are the ones intimidating Javier. After a near-death prank that sends him to the hospital, Javier discovers he can see memories and premonitions. With these new powers, maybe he can solve who’s slashing his classmates? 

"Departing Seniors" doesn’t just turn its characters into blank meat puppets on a chopping block, but gives us two empathetic lead characters we want to see live and characters that maybe don’t deserve to live as long (like a student who’s called “a bitch” even by her teacher). Ignacio Diaz-Silverio makes for a lovably witty, self-confident Javier, and the engaging Ireon Roach, as his ride-or-die Bianca, couldn’t be a more perfect match. Read the full review at GuyAtTheMovies.com

Grade: B -

Dark Sky Films released "Departing Seniors" (85 min.) in select theaters and on streaming platforms on February 2, 2024.