[wptab name=’#Horror Review’]
Technology is all around us, a concept with which everyone is familiar at this point in the game; there are tablets and phones that can be used even when it seems we’re nearly inaccessible, and media – both social and literal – is just a click or a tap away in most cases. It is not a possibility in the far-off future but the present, and while generations before us feared the way technology might impact daily living, it’s pretty clear that, dangers of cyber-bullying and the inability to disconnect aside, easy access to stuff is pretty damn helpful. But cell phones and the Internet can also be toxic (not the cancer-causing radiation of cell phones, but the transmission of harmful information), a possibility that has been around ever since that first person typed a hateful message about someone else into their computer. It’s not new, but it may be spreading in an alarming way.
#Horror is writer/director Tara Subkoff’s way of exploring the ways that social media and Internet culture tend to attract horrible faceless bullies. Her film, centered around a group of 12-year-old girls attending a slumber party at a fancy mansion full of abstract and priceless artworks, features the kind of bullying young teens are more and more likely to encounter, capturing the vanity of young adults trapped in a world that values the number of Likes someone has online rather than their overall life experiences or personality. She uses a made-up phone app to get this point across, including a number of pop-ups on screen that treats cool selfies like a points system, with the most well-liked photos being those that depict gruesome murders. A smiley face with a gun often hints that #Horror actually has killings in it and that the Internet is often a vile, psychologically twisted place. And if those cartoon offerings don’t get that point across, the mountains of cringe-inducing dialogue from Subkoff’s pre-teen girls will hopefully clue you in.
What #Horror really amounts to, though, is a film that not only captures a very jaded and somewhat stereotypical viewing of Internet culture but also fails to do anything effective with the reveal. In truth, Subkoff’s script lacks any sort of subtext whatsoever. #Horror‘s theme is quite literally externalized by its characters, like when Dr. Michael White (Timothy Hutton) screams that his daughter can’t put her phone down for five minutes or when Georgie (Emma Adler) declares her life over after Cat (Haley Murphy) posts a defamatory picture of her on the web; but it’s also annoyingly shoved into the viewer’s face every few minutes with on-screen hashtags like #killinit and #fabulous as the girls snap asinine pictures.
Subkoff has a point – our culture values Internet points over direct conversations, and there is a ton of cyber-bullying that goes unnoticed or unaddressed. But #Horror‘s unwavering focus on this alone, even elevating it above more interesting ideas like adolescent self-mutilation and bulimia, is all too simple. Subkoff includes character details that don’t fit into the hashtag dynamic – the death of Cat’s mother for one, and Sofia’s mother’s (Chloë Sevigny) narcissism as well – but it all eventually leads back to technology yet again. There’s a strange fearmongering here that becomes ridiculous the longer the film goes on, especially when, by midway point, the killings haven’t even begun.
The bigger issue, though, is that Subkoff doesn’t really know what to do with her killer. The identity is pretty easy to deduce based on the limited amount of suspects anyway, but more than that, #Horror waits until the film’s quick conclusion to identify the social media relationship. It’s revealed that the killings were an ode to some sort of supernatural presence, and I’m thinking that Subkoff is getting at the Slender Man-inspired murders that happened a couple of years ago. But that element is pushed aside for endless dialogue about bullying, both cyber- and real-world. It amounts to a one-note film that quickly becomes mind-numbingly boring because it keeps repeating its one idea over and over.
The whole thing is rather unfortunate, because there’s a hint of a good idea here if only the script capitalized on it. Subkoff has a pretty good eye for interesting shots, too, especially with the cold setting in the film. And the young girls do put in some good work in their roles, doing what they can to elevate the sloppy dialogue. It’s not enough, though, for #Horror to overcome its lack of subtext. Unfortunately, the film is #notgood, and now the Internet can start throwing some harsh criticism at it in an ironic twist.[/wptab]
#Horror looks fine on Blu-Ray, although certain scenes in dark lighting have some weird grid-like patterns overlaying them. Is this an attempt to create a hashtag-esque look? I don’t think so – I think it’s just a film choice. As for audio, there are two tracks – a 5.1 DTS-HD master audio and a 2.0. The film doesn’t use very much of its surround sound, but this Blu-Ray sounds fine. [/wptab]
[wptab name=’Special Features’]
Sorry, nothing of note here besides some reversible cover art and a trailer, along with some other IFC Films trailers.[/wptab]