The Girl Who Got Away Escapes Serial Killer Tropes

After The Boy Behind The Door put children in the path of a dangerous killer, another serial killer thriller hits VOD platforms. This time its young girls in peril or, more specifically, one girl who escapes. From writer and director Michael Morrissey, The Girl Who Got Away picks up years after a young girl who escapes a female serial killer. But the killer’s prison escape shatters her happy existence and puts everyone around her at risk. Though its story sounds familiar, The Girl Who Got Away promises a somewhat different direction. So far critics haven’t given this one much of a look but audiences seem impressed.


Years ago, serial killer Elizabeth Caulfield abducted five young girls in a small New York town. Raising them as her own children, Caulfield subjected the girls to untold horrors before killing them. Only one girl escaped before Caulfield was caught. Now Caulfield has escaped during a prisoner transfer. The retired sheriff who arrested Caulfield fears for the safety of ‘The Girl Who Away’, an adult Christina Bowden, so he implores his former protégé to protect her. But when the bodies of those closest to Christina begin to turn up, the new sheriff questions the identity of the killer.

The Girl Who Got Away Eschews Standard Serial Killer Thrills for Engaging Mystery

Straight out of the gate, The Girl Who Got Away hooks you. Writer and director Michael Morrissey takes you out on a dark isolated road and quickly escalates things from uneasy to panic. By and large, however, this is as close to horror as the movie gets. For the remainder of its time, The Girl Who Got Away is more of a twisting mystery and thriller. In this regard, Morrissey crafts one of the more engrossing thrillers in recent memory. In spite of its serial killer origin, The Girl Who Got Away avoids nearly all the familiar tropes. Occasionally, Morrissey lapses into ‘slash and stalk’ scenes. Nonetheless, The Girl Who Got Away never indulges in the more exploitative aspects of its story. And Morrissey maintains a focus on suspense and the emotional investment of the story, particularly in the climax.

As Morrissey takes his story in an unexpected direction it feels organiz rather than a cheat.

In addition, The Girl Who Got Away actually builds its mystery and twists without convoluted plot developments. Here’s a thriller where characters’ behaviours often make sense and investigating officers ask sensible questions. As Morrissey takes his story in an unexpected direction it feels organic rather than a cheat. Quick flashbacks offer hints and a surprise reveal never contradicts what came earlier. Most importantly, Morrissey never spoon-feeds the audience. Though its ending is ambiguous, The Girl Who Got Away leaves you with enough information to piece things together.

The Girl Who Got Away Surprises with Layered Story and Characters

Perhaps what’s most surprising about The Girl Who Got Away is its layered treatment of a handful of characters and subplots. First, Morrissey’s screenplay joins the recent Halloween remake in taking some time to explore the emotional toll of past trauma. Lexi Johnson’s varied reactions to her returning past are afforded time. Moreover, Morrissey avoids lazy victim tropes. But The Girl Who Got Away also devotes some story to other characters including Chuwudi Iwuji’s Nigerian-born sheriff. Iwuji’s complicated relationship with the town’s past sheriff never distracts from the thriller’s central mystery. Instead, it fleshes out the character into a weathered man whose growing suspicions actually propel the story.

Iwuji’s complicated relationship with the town’s past sheriff never distracts from the thriller’s central mystery.

Strong performances courtesy of Johnson and Iwuji justify the movie’s layered story. As The Girl Who Got Away, Johnson mixes the same kind of vulnerability and strength we saw from Jamie Lee Curtis. And when the movie needs Johnson to to raise doubts about her mental state, the actress relies on subtle lapses more than melodramatics. Similarly, Iwuji shoulders his character’s past with a dignity that instantly makes him a compelling protagonist. Both performers communicate a lot about their characters without unnecessary exposition.

The Girl Who Got Away Shouldn’t Escape Your Attention

Less a horror movie and more a mix of thriller and mystery, The Girl Who Got Away delivers on its promised mystery. From its tense opening scene, Morrissey weaves a story that consistently engages right up to its ambiguously chilling conclusion. The thriller’s twists are subtle while its characters are surprisingly deep. Credit to Morrissey for balancing several characters while still maintaining a laser focus on his central story. What could have been another exploitative serial killer movie is instead a quietly impressive thriller that’s absolutely worth a look from audiences.


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I am a Criminology professor in Canada but I've always had a passion for horror films. Over the years I've slowly begun incorporating my interest in the horror genre into my research. After years of saying I wanted to write more about horror I have finally decided to create my own blog where I can share some of my passion and insights into the films I love.

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