Cleanliness is next to godliness, or so the old adage goes, but in the new dystopian thriller Level 16 cleanliness is next to something much more sinister. Set in a mysterious school where teenage girls are trained to be the stereotypical ideal of a proper young lady — “clean girls” above all — by the Stepford-meets-Femme-Dom headmistress Miss Brixil (Sara Canning), Level 16 unfolds a tense dystopian tale of terror spun from a society built around upholding “feminine virtues”. When friends Vivienne (Katie Douglas) and Sophia (Celina Martin) age up to the final stage of the school, the mysterious Level 16, they uncover horrible secrets in the desperate search to discover what awaits them when they age out of the institution.
I caught Level 16 at Fantastic Fest last year (you can read my full review here) and liked it quite a bit. Director Danishka Esterhazy makes fine work of milking the Handmaid’s Tail adjacent horrors for all their worth while spinning a strong story of empowerment through female friendship. It’s a tight, thoughtful YA-style nightmare that feels like The Handmaid’s Tale, The Twilight Zone, and The Giver had a weird little baby with a timely twist. Personally, I think this trailer gives a bit too much away and you’d be better served by going in blind, but definitely put this sharp little sci-fi thriller on your radar either way.
Level 16 arrives in theaters and on VOD March 1, 2019.
Here’s the official synopsis for Level 16:
“Sixteen-year-old Vivien is trapped in The Vestalis Academy, a prison-like boarding school, keeping to herself and sticking her neck out for no one. Until she is reunited with Sophia — the former friend who betrayed her. Together the girls embark on a dangerous search to uncover the horrifying truth behind their imprisonment. Soon running for their lives, the girls must save themselves or die trying.”