Metro Weekly

‘Departing Seniors’: Crazed Masked Killers and Gay Heroes

"Departing Seniors" slices into teen slasher horror with snarky humor, a supernatural twist, and a gutsy gay hero.

Departing Seniors
Departing Seniors: Ireon Roach, Cameron Scott Roberts, and Ignacio Diaz-Silverio

Stalked by bullies, and a crazed masked killer, gay teen Javier (Ignacio Diaz-Silverio) faces a hellish final week of high school in the smart, spirited slasher comedy Departing Seniors.

A cut above the average indie horror flick, this feature debut from director Clare Cooney rides highest on the strength of Diaz-Silverio’s soulful lead turn as tormented teen Javier.

The breakout star of Freevee’s coming-of-age sitcom Primo, Diaz-Silverio captures Javier’s irrepressible self-assurance, maintained despite enduring constant teasing and harassment from a herd of jocks.

Confident that his bestie Bianca (Ireon Roach), also queer, has his back, Javier is vulnerable but courageous, sardonically funny, and compassionate enough that he still feels for those jerks when a knife-wielding murderer in a Greek drama mask starts targeting school bullies.

Bianca is less forgiving, reminding him, with a wicked edge well-played by Roach, “In Carrie all the high school assholes get what they deserve.”

As expected in the post-Scream, meta-horror landscape, the script by Jose Nateras references a number of genre touchstones through plot or dialogue. Bianca namedrops another Stephen King story, The Dead Zone, after a supernatural plot twist finds Javier waking from an accident with a newfound gift of clairvoyance.

Triggered by touch, his alarming visions of the past and future could help solve the mystery of who’s donning the mask and murdering students. Unfortunately, a dearth of intriguing suspects saps some tension from the mystery.

The film does little to develop its world of characters beyond Javier, Bianca, a handful of bullies, and Javier’s crush, the cute, quipping transfer student William (Ryan Foreman).

Departing Seniors
Departing Seniors: Ignacio Diaz-Silverio and Ireon Roach

Instead, Departing Seniors digs into its central teen drama with uncommon sensitivity and a modern sensibility. Because, of course, one of Javier’s most vicious tormentors is also the DL jock he’s been secretly hooking up with for months.

And, of course, their affair is outed very publicly, prompting a genuinely affecting depiction of how homophobic violence and intolerance can beget more violence, including self-harm and even suicide.

Not every performer in the cast is as adept as Diaz-Silverio and Roach are at portraying the nuances of the issues at hand, but the film overall imbues Javier’s story with meaning. Death isn’t dealt with frivolously at Springhurst High.

However, the pacing lags when the movie veers too far from the genre path. Much more engaging is when the underlying pathos combines with thriller tension, and the pulsing score, for sequences like Javier and Bianca racing to save a potential victim from certain death inside the team locker room, or the climactic face-off that sees the killer finally unmasked — onstage, no less.

Cooney, cinematographer Jason Chiu, and editor Isabella McCarthy keep the setups and scares tight and simple, delivering startling kills with minimal blood and gore. The atmosphere stays grounded in the credible physical reality of regular kids just trying to get through one more week of high school, while being chased through the halls and showers by a maniac.

Adolescent pranks escalate quickly to deadly consequences, and unexplained psychic phenomena. For, to be sure, not a hint of explanation is offered for Javier’s sudden psychometric abilities, other than amusing mentions of his late Tia Lupe, who apparently possessed the same gift. Javier doesn’t probe the matter too deeply, and the movie doesn’t build on his family lore.

But the film has plenty to say, and with distinction, about a queer Latino kid at a suburban American high school fighting for his life by the sharpness of his wit, and depth of his heart, with one true friend by his side.

Departing Seniors (★★★☆☆) is available to stream or purchase on VOD/Digital through most platforms. Visit

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