“Fake is better.”
Story: Crazy rich basic tween bitches – and one scholarship girl – get together for a slumber party. Of course catty sniping rules the evening…and so does a killer who seems to know what they’re posting on their favorite social media game.
Scares: Not many, but there are a few incredible death scenes that show real promise in this filmmaker.
Splat factor: See above.
Closing scene “shocker”?: Not if you’ve been paying attention.
Remake, Sequel or OG (Original Ghoul)?: Wholly original.
Trick or Treat?: Holy shit this film has a lot of actors that I recognize. Natasha Lyone & Chloé Sevigny play mommies, Timothy Hutton plays an overachiever dad, Balthazar Getty, Taryn Manning… Kewl. Pity the film itself isn’t as kewl. Hard to figure out what’s going on in this artsy but muddled tale, let alone who’s connected to whom.
Still, there are some really beautiful shots. And some really bad shots too – overexposed lighting, weird choppy edits. But there’s an attention to visual detail in director Tara Subkoff’s work, even when her story veers out of control. And it’s really out of control; it’s difficult to figure out what the hell is going on most of the time. The girls are supposedly hooked into a phone app game, but all we see are emojis, GIFs, and pop-ups. The game isn’t explained; it’s introduced as if you should know about it already.
What pulled me in was the interesting look at bullying, and our addiction to cell phones – they’re the Greek chorus here, letting you know what the characters are really thinking doing, or avoiding. That someone would think to make a horror film that doesn’t focus on the Lone Bullied Kid, but instead focuses on bullying itself? Feels like a breath of fresh air. A strange, off-kilter breath, but fresh nonetheless.
Subkoff zones in on bullying – how it spirals out of control, how social media takes the immediacy out of cruelty. Just put it out there – your hurtful comments don’t really mean anything. You don’t have to see that person crumble, so you’re unaffected. Doesn’t touch you, so what’s the problem? The permanence of social media is at once inconceivable and devastating depending on what side of the insult you’re on. And Subkoff’s ability to really dig into teen culture feels spot on; you may not like it, but drinking, sniping, and acting way too mature is exactly what tweens do. Remember? These young actresses nail their parts, and it’s the realest (YES) I’ve seen teenagers act since Kids.
The last 20 minutes of this film is all over the place, but a fun ride. The climax brings horror and statement film together nicely. I just wish the minutes preceding it had been just as enjoyable. Instead, they’re more statement pieces that feel thrown together with no real thought beyond getting to the finish. I applaud Subkoff’s attempt at blending art, horror, and message film. But with #Horror, it’s still just an attempt. But I’ll be front and center for her next joint; she’s got a vision I’m interested in seeing more of.
Score: 2.5 out of 5 pumpkins. Bumped up half a pumpkin because I see the beginnings of real talent in Subkoff.