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Review by Rich Cline |
dir Eugene Kotlyarenko
scr Gene McHugh, Eugene Kotlyarenko
prd Matthew Budman, Sumaiya Kaveh, John Lang, Eugene Kotlyarenko
with Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Kyle Mooney, Mischa Barton, Frankie Grande, Lala Kent, Josh Ovalle, Sunny Kim, John DeLuca, Linas Phillips, Jessalyn Gilsig
release US/UK 14.Aug.20
SUNDANCE FILM FEST
Fast-based and bursting with energy, this visually whizzy horror comedy takes the audience on an intense journey. Funny as well as gripping, the story gets increasingly violent. But it's also making some jaggedly pointed comments on how social media is replacing authentic experiences. The film's inventive, detailed screen-based aesthetic is skilfully rendered, with a freewheeling narrative that offers a witty running commentary along with some seriously unnerving nastiness.
Aspiring Los Angeles vlogger Kurt (Keery) has an idea to generate content, placing eight cameras in the car he drives for the ride-share app Spree. And he intends to bump off passengers using poisoned water bottles, among other methods as needed. So he can't understand why it doesn't work. His viral pal Bobby (Ovalle) calls it "stale content". And one rider who gets away, stand-up comic Jessie (Zamata), discounts Kurt as an inauthentic "twitter-bot". So he raises the stakes exponentially. Then as he starts stalking Jessie, his DJ dad (Arquette) takes him on a detour.
Kurt's breezy narration of his rampage is pathologically smiley which, along with the fact that his passengers are jerks, gives the film a blackly comical tone. Conversations about followers and feeds are fast and hilarious, especially when juxtaposed with the running commentary of characters who are relentless racists, misogynists and narcissists. Of course Kurt is furious that his insanely grisly murders aren't making him famous. Especially since people like Jessie have a clumsy feed that's watched by millions.
Performances are heightened, but also eerily realistic, since these people are all such attention-seekers. At the centre, Keery is an engaging psychopath, oblivious of real-world consequences. He only lets his youthful bravado slip in his terrific scenes with Arquette, who offers another amusingly unhinged turn as Kurt's preoccupied dad. And the others who come in and out of the frame bring a blast of authenticity, even when things get somewhat crazy. Zamata has a particularly riveting presence as a woman who takes Kurt on.
Pretty much everyone in this film is only interested in experiences that liven up their social media feeds. Kurt isn't even the worst, but he thinks homeless people are expendable simply because they have no online presence. By contrast, Jessie's riotous stand-up routine is packed with right-on jokes, including one about how pathetic Kurt is begging to be tagged by anyone more successful than he is. So even as this movie indulges in its exaggerated premise, it's packed with terrific characters, and a killer point.
R E A D E R R E V I E W SStill waiting for your comments ... don't be shy.
© 2020 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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