Level 16 Parent Guide
This Canadian suspense thriller makes a small budget go a long way.
Parent Movie Review
Vivien (Katie Douglas) is one of several dozen young women attending the Vestalis Academy, a seemingly rigorous (and more than a little cult-y) finishing school. She and her fellow students are taught many lessons about how women should behave to remain “clean.” However, when classmate Sophia (Celina Martin) encourages Vivien to stop taking her nightly “vitamins,” Vivien comes to realize that the Academy isn’t a school at all, and that graduating may have terrifying consequences. Together, Sophia and Vivien plan an escape, but how will they make it past the locked doors? And more importantly, what should they do with the other girls, who don’t yet understand their peril?
Level 16 has many of the features that people commonly associate with “indie” films. The pacing is slow but very consistent, giving the film an almost dreamlike quality. The film’s small budget is obvious, but Level 16 does an admirable job of working within its financial constraints and has a strong, unique visual design despite its limited resources. The colorful lighting is especially helpful here, allowing the filmmakers to create distinct senses of space and different times of day without needing a lot of different sets or effects. The soundtrack is very subtle, and many scenes are played without music of any kind.
Level 16 isn’t a film for everyone, especially those who want movies to move quickly. I don’t think the production’s slow pacing is a drawback; if the story went a mile a minute, you wouldn’t get any of the character development or elegant camera work the movie does so well. The bigger downside to the film is that it’s derivative of films like Get Out, which is a bold move considering how successful that movie has been. This isn’t a deal breaker, but it can spoil some of the suspense.
Level 16 isn’t the most original or daring film in its genre, but it is a well made, solidly acted movie. If nothing else, I found it entertaining and enjoyable, although I do wish it had steered a little more into either the suspense or social criticism elements of its story. While certainly not a children’s movie, given its frightening premise and graphic violence, this is a good low-intensity thriller for teenagers and adults looking for a break from the high-speed action of so many contemporary releases.Directed by Danishka Esterhazy. Starring Katie Douglas, Celina Martin, and Sara Canning. Running time: 102 minutes. Theatrical release March 22, 2019. Updated March 28, 2019
Rating & Content Info
Violence: An individual is strangled and scratched across the face. A character is struck against a wall. A person is hit in the face with a clothing iron. Someone cuts the palm of their hand in an effort cause pain to help them resist a sedative. An individual is hit in the face with a heavy table lamp. A corpse is shown with their skin surgically removed. A person is pushed off of a roof to their death. An individual is stabbed in the shoulder. A young woman deliberately cuts her own face to escape a perilous situation. An individual is shot off-screen.
Sexual Content: No sexual activity is shown or described in any detail. A person is known to be sexually abusing the girls while they sleep, but this is not shown or described graphically.
Profanity: No profanity is used.
Alcohol / Drug Use: The “villains” are shown having a single drink together. Most of the characters are involuntarily given sedatives and various other drugs, but this hardly qualifies as recreational use.
Page last updated March 28, 2019
Level 16 Parents' Guide
Vivien is tempted to abandon her friends on several occasions. What choice would you have made in her place? Why do you think she made the decisions that she did? What benefits or difficulties did she experience as a result of those choices?
In the real world, young women are kidnapped and trafficked on a massive and terrifying scale. While their situation usually doesn’t correspond closely to the events of the film, some of them manage to escape their captors. How do you think we could help these survivors? What kind of problems do you think they will have as a result of these experiences? What do you think we could do to prevent these crimes from happening?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
Want a boarding school story that is scary but not too scary? Try Robin Stevens’ Murder is Bad Manners. Suitable for tweens and teens. Those looking for boarding school mysteries in graphic form might want to read Thomas Siddell’s Gunnerkrigg Court.
Related home video titles:
As I mentioned above, Jordan Peele’s 2017 directorial debut Get Out is a slightly more sophisticated take on this premise and is one of my personal favorites. It is, however, much more intense, and if you found Level 16 frightening, it may be too much for you. It is also R-rated and suitable only for adult viewers and older teens who like horror films.
10 Cloverfield Lane, starring John Goodman and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, also features a young woman struggling with captivity. However, this film focuses much more on the psychological horror of the situation than Level 16.