We all had or still have that fear of growing up, where we have to abandon the little things that entertained us as children, see the world differently, and overall just changing into someone different than who we once were. In Thierry Poiraud’s 2015 horror drama film Don’t Grow Up or as it’s called in Europe Alone (Don’t Grow Up), makes the idea of growing up a death sentence on a fictional island where a strange virus only affects the adults, turning them into ravenousness killers.
Warning: lots and lots of Spoilers ahead! Don’t want the story spoiled? Scroll down to the final picture.
The story revolves around a group of teens who live in a home for children. Bastian (Fergus Riordan) who tried committing suicide as a result of blaming himself for his little sister’s death, Liam (McKell David) a brash individual who always brags about how rich his father is all the while being neglectful to his girlfriend May (Natifa Mai) who is almost old enough to leave the home but plans on doing it sooner with the promise of a new job back on the mainland, Pearl (Madeleine Kelly) whose uncomfortable with herself wanting to be liked, Shawn (Darren Evans) an oddball who’s always up for fun, and Thomas (Diego Méndez) the quiet one of the group who participates in the group’s fun while trying not to get into trouble.
The group is left alone at the home as the other kids and staff have left for a holiday (don’t know if they meant vacation as we say here in the states or if they mean an actual holiday) the film opens with the caregiver, who stayed behind driving recklessly away from the home. It turns out to be May’s birthday so the group celebrates by breaking into desks retrieving confiscated items, alcohol, and pot. Liam gets the idea to borrow May’s keys to the gas station where she works so he and the others can steal some beers and snacks.
The entire group leaves the home and goes into town completely unfazed by the fact that it’s literally dead silent (That’s probably the biggest red flag in any movie). As Liam, Shawn, and Thomas are inside the gas station, Bastian hears a little girl scream from a nearby apartment and notices a bloody handprint on the window. Bastian goes in and finds a little girl being held by her unconscious mother in a barricaded room, the little girl tells Bastian that the grownups are all bad in which her mother opens her eyes showing that they’re foggy and proceeds to violently strangles the little girl. May finds the now revealed infected caregiver who attacks her severely wounding her. Thomas who’s outside the gas station on his cell phone is beaten to death by a man with a crowbar.
In the mayhem, a car comes up being driven by a boy from whom Liam takes control of the wheel from and the group flees town. While driving along they see the carnage of strange looking adults walking around armed with whatever they could get their hands on, and bodies of murdered kids laying in the streets. As they drive along the car hits a set of spike strips that were left on the road. Shawn’s ear starts to bleeding and the boy in the car tells the group that Shawn is one of “them” now, leaving the group baffled as he flees into the woods.
The group, being lead by Liam, finds a house where they decide to spend the night. May’s condition is dire as she was stabbed during her attack, and is bleeding out; Liam is concerned about Shawn who is slowly starting to look sick even as Shawn is trying to convince everyone (including himself) that he can’t be infected because he’s not even 18. Liam spends the night drinking, May sleeps as Shawn watches over her, and Pearl is trying to seduce Bastian to no avail (if I saw what these kids saw minutes before, getting laid is the farthest thing on my mind!).
The following morning, Shawn is in fact (no surprise) infected and has taken May to a nearby parked car where he smashes her face repeatedly in the dashboard because she would not stop crying. Bastian and Liam confront Shawn who looks at them with his foggy infected eyes and begs Liam to shoot him with the gun he got off a dead cop. Bastian does the deed for Liam who could not handle the situation. The three remaining teens drive with May’s body all the way to the desert-What?! The movie was filmed on Canary Island which does have a desert but to the average moviegoer, it looks like they’re in a Californian desert.
Anywho, they lay out May’s body all the while Liam laments that he hasn’t been that good to her. While walking away, Liam is shot by some youngsters who then steal the car the group drove to the desert in. Liam, as he lies dying, gives Bastian a note with the address to where his father lives (a note he earlier stole from his own file in the beginning) and who has a boat. As Pearl and Bastian wonder through the desert they find a trailer where the two spend the night. Bastian wakes up from his reoccurring nightmare of when his little sister was killed when he was a child and wakes up blaming himself for her death where Pearl comforts him and the two have a love scene- for god’s sake!
I can’t find any information on the age of these actors at the time of the filming but they look too young to have a sex scene even though the scene is pretty short and you thankfully don’t see anything it’s just the fact that they have characters who you are supposed to believe are (and look) 15 to 17 years old! I digress. The following day while out frolicking in the desert, Bastian and Pearl find kids raiding their trailer, the kids are convinced that Bastian is one of the infected and flee leaving behind a little girl who is I’m assuming just somewhere between 4 or 6?
The couple and their new companion travel to a coastal city where Liam’s father lives and sees a scene out of Dante’s Inferno where the streets are littered with the bodies of dead adults and buildings and cars on fire and bands of teenagers and kids with guns killing adults and soon setting their sights on the trio thinking Bastian is infected. After escaping the three find Liam’s home only to see it’s a shack contrary to what Liam kept telling everyone.
While in the shack trying to figure out where to find a boat, Bastian notices that he’s starting to bleed from his ear signaling that he’s infected. Bastian takes Pearl and the little girl to the beach where they find boat belonging to Liam’s dad, as the trio approach, the same group of kids up on the cliffs start shooting at them as they run for the boat. Bastion pushes Pearl and the girl out to sea and sees them off just before being shot and killed. The story ends with a flashback of the kids being interviewed at the home about what they would want their lives to be like when they’re grown up and the final shot shows Pearl driving the boat away from land leaving her and the little girl’s fate unknown.
I honestly don’t know how to feel about this film, really I don’t. I felt a bit cheated with a promising concept that seemed original but was poorly executed. A few changes and maybe some better character development may have made the story flow a bit better. Some of the acting by Pearl, May, and Thomas seemed awkward and could have used better direction. Out of all the characters my favorite was Shawn because for the time he was in the film, Darren Evans made his character more believable and you felt sorry to see him go.
The streaming service Shudder described Don’t Grow Up as 28 Days Later meets The Breakfast Club, what I saw was The Crazies meet Lord of the Flies. There is no real jump scares really even though there was plenty of opportunities to have something happen. They said it was a zombie film but there are no zombies, just a bunch of really angry adults who you really don’t even see, you see a couple and that’s pretty much it. The film is unrated but went pretty PG-13 for the subject matter that it was supposed to be about. If anything, it’s more about the horrors of leaving teenagers alone on an island with guns and no rules. If any movie needs to be remade, I would welcome a remake of this one as rare as I would say it. On my scale of 1-5 stars, it’s just barely 2.