2021 | TV-MA | 10 hrs.
In an era that is quite devoid of the classic psychological thriller content that we had come to love from the 80s and 90s, it seemed impossible that Yellowjackets would ever get made. Sure, there are psychological thrillers still being made, but none quite so in the spirit of the classic Scream, Hills Have Eyes, or even Friday the 13th. Yellowjackets, however, combines the best of all three of those films, along with influences from a bunch of different classic horror films. The result is a shocking series, one that truly plays with your mind and showcases how effective PTSD is a destroying people from within.
Yellowjackets follows the story of a group of young teenage girls. These girls are exceptionally gifted at soccer and are looking to be one of the very best teams in the state, or even the country. However, they hide a secret – these girls were the survivors of a plane crash that led to some of the most horrific memories of their lives. Shauna, Taissa, Misty, and Natalie survived the plane crash with the rest of the Yellowjackets, but they were left stranded in the wilderness for 19 whole months. At that time, to survive in the wild, some of the survivors of the crash joined cannibalistic clans, while others became scavengers, fighting to survive. The series also showcases the lives of the four prisoners 25 years after their rescue, and how the experience broke them as people.
As I mentioned earlier, it combines elements from a lot of different classic horror films. Yellowjackets is a culmination of years worth of horror films, survivor stories, and campfire legends. The most important and integral factor for this series is that it does not hold back. Yellowjackets paints a horrifying portrayal of human nature and the lengths that people will go to survive. It shows how normal people were pushed to the brink, and fell into cannibalistic desires just to survive. It doesn’t pull any of its punches and showcases that in a strictly realistic manner. The characters feel like real people with very real experiences, and their struggles to survive even 25 years after coming back home feel like the truth, and that is a testament to the execution here.
The reason why this story feels so much like a multi-layered narrative is perhaps due to the performances. Yellowjackets constantly showcases two different stories, but it still portrays the same characters. One is the story of the girls in the plane crash, the young people fighting to survive out in the wilderness after that fateful day. The other story is the one that takes place 25 years later, as 4 adult women, our protagonists, are gathering the strength to finally reveal to the world the experiences that haunt them to this day. These two separate stories act as a cadaver for the multi-layered narrative, and the performances of the actors were an integral part in keeping the consistency flowing.
You have to commend the young ladies Sophie Nélisse, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Sophie Thatcher, and Sammi Hanratty for their performances. They bring a sense of innocence and purity to their roles. However, the way they are genuinely able to turn up the heat when it is required in some sequences is nothing short of fantastic. The way these girls portray the four protagonists HAD to be portrayed in the same spirit as adult characters. Thankfully, with some experienced character actors in the leading roles, we’ve got a recipe for greatness. Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress, Christina Ricci, and Juliette Lewis are wonder workers in this series. They showcased not just maturity and growth within the same personalities, but they added a layer of heartbreak and a lifetime of harmful experiences on top of those 19 months in purgatory.
Those 19 months in purgatory could have become boring and bloated if it wasn’t for the performances, though what elevates their quality, even more, are the incredible visuals in Yellowjackets. It’s got a total of 3 different cinematographers working on it. Julie Kirkwood, C. Kim Miles, and Trevor Forrest have created a mesmerizing vision of a truly mortifying story. The world of Yellowjackets is drowning in the atmosphere, drenched in color and filled to the brim with memorable shots and sequences that have unique camera angles, amazing lighting, and fantastic moments. It’s great that this series has three different people in the visuals department because each of them can focus on one aspect such as the lighting, framing, and movement.
When it comes to the music though, it’s hard to think of many tunes that I would consider memorable. Most of the music in the series is there to either build a somber moment or to build up intensity unlike any other series. That is the main reason why most of the music in this series did not hit the way it should have, as it was hard to enjoy it due to its generic sound for the most part. However, the soundtrack choice in this series was phenomenal. The Smashing Pumpkin’s iconic song ‘Today’ is what kicks off the series, and that same level of music quality remains there in some of the most important moments in the series. It’s hard to not love every track that plays, whether they’re iconic or some of the more underground music showcased. Overall though, the score doesn’t do much.
Yellowjackets is an insane tale of a life-damaging experience that has left a group of people in broken pieces. It’s a fantastically shot, incredibly well-acted series that is put together by a masterful group of people. The attention to detail in the way these characters are written is phenomenal, while the visuals are eye-catching and delectable to stare at. The unnerving intensity of some of the scarier sequences is harrowing, while the gut-wrenching sadness from some of the moments lingers long after you’ve finished watching the series.