Trying to hold onto the glory days of high school? It’s both funny and scary in ‘Most Likely to Murder’

Sometimes the funniest comedies make us laugh because we can see ourselves in them. The majority of people who watch “Most Likely to Murder” will probably not see themselves in Billy (Adam Pally), the lead in the film, but we all know that *one* guy still stuck in a high school frame of mind — and in this case, that’s even funnier.

“Most Likely to Murder.”

When Billy comes back to his hometown for Thanksgiving after being away, things are not as they once were. He used to be the cool kid, the top dog, the one everyone wanted to hang out with. Now, coming back, he finds that no one really wants to be around him. They tolerate him, but his friends have moved on while he has remained unchanged.

Much to his dismay, however, not only are all his friends a little different and more mature, but they also like the former town outcast. Lowell (Vincent Kartheiser) was the geek everyone made fun of and never wanted to be around. Now *he’s* like the top dog. And worse yet, he’s dating the love of Billy’s life, Kara (Rachel Bloom). So, after getting some strange vibes off Lowell, and aiming to hold onto his high school lifestyle, Billy begins a quest to prove Lowell is a murderer.

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Glancing at the title, you might expect this to be a horror movie. It’s not frightening in the traditional sense, and primarily the film is, of course, a comedy. But it gives off some horror movie vibes, and the different scores played in the background give it an eerie tone at moments. It elevates horror tropes for comedic purposes, and it works well, with many of the jokes landing perfectly.

Members of the cast and crew of “Most Likely to Murder” at the Highball in Austin on March 13. From left are producer Petra Ahman, co-writer and actor Doug Mand, actor Adam Pally, actor John Reynolds, co-writer and director Dan Gregor, and actor Rachel Bloom. JAMES GREGG/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The only true element of scare in the story is the fact that Billy’s character is so far removed from reality. He still thinks bullying is cool, and he hasn’t grown out of his teenage self. Feeling sorry for him is possible, eventually, but the film doesn’t exactly ask for that. He does have an arc but has few redeeming qualities, which makes it easier to laugh at some of the situations he gets into.

The comedic play on the words in the title with high school yearbook superlatives is not lost, and it gives the film a theme that shines a light on the other characters as well. If Billy’s the dude who never left high school, then who is everyone else? They all scoff at him, but it’s clear a few have some of their own issues and triumphs as well. The film shows the sort of realizations you come to when you’re faced with individuals from the past, who you may or may not have liked, and how you see them now as adults, without looking through a teenage lens.

One of the great strengths of the film is its leads. For years, Pally and Bloom have graced the small screen successfully on shows like “The Mindy Project” and Bloom’s “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend,” but it’s clear that they could do more on the big screen and thrive if they so wish.

“Most Likely to Murder” is an enjoyable watch, blending qualities from both the comedy and thriller genres in a way that takes you on a fun ride, and possibly makes you even consider your own high school superlatives.

“Most Likely to Murder” had its world premiere at South By Southwest on March 12. It screens again at 6 p.m. March 13 and 9:45 p.m. March 14 at the Alamo South Lamar. Grade: B+

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