High school can be fun, or the bane of your existence, depending on your experience. When students start exploding randomly at a small-town high school, kids stop worrying about trivial things and wonder if they’ll be next in Spontaneous.
When Katelyn (Mellany Barros) explodes in a spectacularly bloody mess during class, the students and faculty of Covington High are shocked. How and why did this happen? Mara (Katherine Langford) and Tess (Hayley Law), best friends since childhood, are scared and weirded out by their classmate Katelyn’s exploding death. Dylan (Charlie Plummer) seizes the day and tells Mara he likes her since he too could explode at any moment. As their romance blooms, more students succumb to the unexplained phenomenon. It’s not pretty, it’s not predictable, and everyone in town is terrified they’re next. When FBI agent Rosetti (Yvonne Orji) investigates, things start looking like an episode of The X-Files when the students become guinea pigs for the government in search of a cure. How much time do they have before the entire senior class blows up for good?
Based on a book by Aaron Starmer of the same name, Brian Duffield, who penned Underwater and The Babysitter, takes his seat as a first-time director with Spontaneous. He does a great job with snappy dialogue and bright sets. Casting is key, and Mara is a girl with a tough shell and a fragile heart played well by Lanford. Mara’s drinking and drug use are excessive in the film; however, if we’ve learned anything from teen films of late, growing up in the 21st century requires copious amounts of numbing. Her chemistry with Plummer was clear, and there were many a sweet moment between the characters that made you root for them. I loved seeing Orji as the FBI agent, and a shoutout to Law who plays Tess with a lot of meaning. Her comments about how people react to exploding students carry weight as a person of color.
There’s a message to be found in the gore and guts of Spontaneous. The school’s events could have been anything: an earthquake, a shooting, an outbreak of epic proportions (sound familiar?), but the outcome seems to be a pat answer from officials who are just as powerless as the victims. Spontaneous lets us know that regardless of the side of the fence we’re on, that mortal clock is ticking, and we need to make the best of our time here.
You can find Spontaneous at select theatres and on AppleTV, Amazon Prime, Playstation Video, and other digital platforms.