LEVEL 16 (2018) Reviews and overview


‘Purity has a price’

Level 16 is a 2018 Canadian science fiction dystopian drama film directed by Danishka Esterhazy (The Banana Splits MovieBlack Field; H&G). The movie stars Katie Douglas, Celina Martin, Sara Canning and Peter Outerbridge.


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…


” …Vivien and Sophie must overcome their mistrust and forge a real bond – a story that we don’t get to see onscreen very often. There are about a billion cinematic paeans to teenage male bonding out there, but LEVEL 16 is something different: a story about female friendships, and how they create life-saving bonds.” Ain’t It Cool News

Level 16 looks at what society expects of its perfect little girls and amplifies it to help illustrate just how toxic those expectations are. These social and cultural demands are perfectly woven into Esterhazy’s thriller, combining current reality and a dark future with ease. The plot is pitch-perfect, complimented further by each member of the cast’s performance.” Birth. Movies. Death.

“Anchored by strong performances by its predominantly female cast, including an inspired cameo by Sheila McCarthy; Esterhazy not only captures the various cages that patriarchal systems place women in, but also how women are often pitting against each other in the process. Crackling with tension, Level 16 is a chilling and empowering film.” Cinema Axis

“This dystopian Handmaid’s Tale riff seems like it must be based on a YA novel, but it’s actually an original product from writer-director Danishka Esterhazy. She doesn’t let the low budget or the occasionally subpar acting from the supporting cast prevent her from telling an engaging sci-fi story that will particularly appeal to teenage girls who are trying to break out of their own confinements.” Crooked Marquee

“This is a feature where the audience will become deeply invested in Esterhazy’s characters forming a strong rooting interest for the two leads. It’s a sharp look into a totalitarian paternalistic regimented world whose tenets shockingly could be duplicated and used to manipulate today.” Flick Hunter

” …a chilling science fiction tale which carries on the classic genre traditions of The Stepford Wives and John Carpenter’s They Live, focusing on not just the obedience of the female characters within but also the obedience of the [poor, unwashed] masses as a whole – but from a refreshing and more importantly, female, point of view.” Nerdly

“There’s edge of your seat tension, stomach-turning disgust, and cheer-worthy elation as the girls finally start to break their metaphorical chains. The film flies with a steady, strong pace and the visuals are simple but striking. Sara Canning and Peter Outerbridge play the school’s overlords and their menacing performances give the film yet another level of creepy.” io9

Level 16 is an austere film, with characters who have been forced to repress their feelings, but it makes a strong, affecting emotional connection … and the inevitable uprising in the last act is properly suspenseful, since the film plays out so evenly that it’s hard to predict just how ruthless it’s going to be at the finish.  Douglas is especially strong as the locked-down lead…” The Kim Newman Web Site

“Though the comparisons to The Handmaid’s Tale are likely to arise, Level 16 is an altogether different beast. At its core, the two projects share a common theme of women fighting oppressive organizations but, thankfully, in the case of Esterhazy’s film, there is some hope at the end of the story.” Quiet Earth

“The movie really belongs to Douglas and Martin, however, as their characters defy the rules first by becoming friends, then by questioning authority, then by challenging it. Ending on a hopeful note, Level 16 is a disturbing, emotionally moving look at the fetishization of teenage girls taken to a horrifying level, and hits the same sort of shudder-inducing notes as The Handmaid’s Tale.” The Spool

“A lot has been made of Level 16’s feminist themes. The director is known for them and they are certainly present here. With an almost entirely female cast it would be hard for them not to be. Thankfully they arise out of, and are a natural part of the plot, not some grafted on construct. They’re there organically and don’t intrude on or overwhelm the plot.” Voices from the Balcony

Level 16 is not a comfortable viewing experience and for some viewers it may be just too sombre, too plodding: its almost slo-mo cruelty demands a good deal from us as viewers. However, there’s a great deal to reward us too and a lot to unpack regarding big ideas of gender, culture and ethics. This is what sci-fi does best, after all…” Warped Perspective

Cast and characters:

Katie Douglas … Vivien – Creeped Out TV series; Spooksville TV series
Celina Martin … Sophia – iZombie TV series
Sara Canning … Miss Brixil – Z; Van Helsing TV series; War for the Planet of the Apes; Primeval: New World TV series
Peter Outerbridge … Dr Miro – Haunter; Silent Hill: Revelation; Saw IV; Land of the Dead
Alexis Whelan … Ava
Amalia Williamson … Rita
Kate Vickery … Hedy
Sarah DaSilva … Young Vivien
Joelle Farrow … Veronica
Marie Carriere Gleason … Video Teacher
Josette Halpert … Olivia
Shanice Johnson … Natalie
Yasmin Lau … May
Kiana Madeira … Clara
Alexa Rose Steele … Audrey
Vladimir Tsyglian … Alex
Kayleigh Shikanai … Greta
Sydney Meyer … Grace
Margaret Maye … Woman Police Officer
Birva Pandya … Frightened Girl
Lori Phun … Young Sofia
Voytek Skrzeta … Gang Member #1

Technical credits:

101 minutes
Aspect ratio: 2.35:1


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