Miranda Veil opens with a scene that is well-explored territory in horror and thriller movies: a man menacingly hovers over a bound and beaten woman, preparing for the final death stroke. Knife to throat, we anticipate the slitting, the inevitable flow of blood and the gurgling as the woman dies.
Except the moment never comes. Our aspiring serial killer, Soren, pulls back and argues with the voice in his head. While the voice is hungry for blood, Soren makes the argument that this particular girl isn’t right. Despite the voice’s very loud and persistent encouragement and insults, Soren packs the girl up in his car and dumps her on the side of the road.
Things change for Soren, however, when he happens upon Miranda one night. Drunk, carefree, and celebrating her 21st birthday, Miranda readily engages Soren in a conversation. The next evening, Soren kidnaps Miranda and takes her to his murder shack.
Soren has finally found the right girl in Miranda, because he eventually kills her. Except, Miranda won’t stay dead. With each gruesome attempt, Miranda pops up, unharmed and baffled. Soren and Miranda, confused and not quite sure what to do, climb in to Soren’s beat up Honda to make the six hour drive back to Barstow, hoping there may be answers along the way.
What follows is another well-worn cinematic tradition: the mystical journey through the desert. Along the way, Soren and Miranda meet colorful and strange characters who may (or may not) offer insight in to Miranda’s situation. In addition, Soren and Miranda’s own relationship deepens as the miles pile up.
The relationship between Soren and Miranda is the beating heart of the story, a very big positive. What makes their warped rapport so appealing is two outcasts finding one another. Soren is much more used to being the freak, while this is very new, very difficult terrain for Miranda to navigate.
Miranda Veil feels like a lot of movies in one. Horror, dark comedy, road movie, with touches of surrealism and romcom. Unfortunately, the genre jumping doesn’t always work to its advantage. The idea of a serial killer attempting to find the “perfect victim” is an interesting one, and is perhaps worth exploring on its own. But Miranda Veil has bigger questions at its center, about life and identity and immortality, questions that the narrative struggles to address in any satisfying way.
The movie accomplishes one essential thing, however, in that you always want to know what happens next. Unfortunately, things don’t always fit together and we are left with a story where the pieces are much greater than the whole. The lead performances from Zach Steffey (as the killer Soren) and Annabel Barrett (as the immortal Miranda) are strong. Barrett, in particular, strikes a lot of different tones very well. Not only is she funny and confident, she is able to convey great vulnerability as Miranda struggles with her new reality.
Ultimately, the great relationship between Miranda and Soren isn’t enough to overcome the shortcomings present in the rest of the story. The bigger questions and themes underlying the journey and the relationship are too big to simply ignore, and by not offering any sort of insight or attempt at answers, we are left unsatisfied at the end of this trip.
5 out of 10