#Horror (Movie Review)

#Horror (Movie Review)
3 10

PLOT: A passel of preening, preteen mean girls are subjected to a night of abject terror when a cruel social media game goes lethally awry.

REVIEW: Cyberbullying is no laughing matter. Hell, being a kid is hard enough. But with advent of social media, the consequence of being an online bully - anonymous, distant, indirect - greatly pales in comparison to being the bullied - vastly exposed, powerless, utterly upheaved. Well, with twenty years of experience in front of the camera, actor-cum-filmmaker Tara Subkoff addresses such a truly troublesome topic in #HORROR - an unfortunate first time feature that feels like such. Really, for a movie supposedly based on true events, #HORROR is an insipidly uninspired, inopportune and amateurish low-budget bore. With its chintzy visual gimmicks, unlikeable characters, more than mean-spirit and dizzyingly dissatisfying denouement, the movie wants to be both a slick slasher whodunit and a socio-technological marvel, but really ends up resembling more of a muddied multimedia mess. Need a shorthand descriptor? How's #HORRID?!

As the film unspools, we're taken to a frigid, snowbound glass mansion out in the middle of the woods. This is the residence of Sofia Cox (Bridget McGarry), a snotty 12-year old rich girl, her equally icy alcoholic mother Alex (Chloe Sevigny) and unnamed Ferrari-driving father (Balthazar Getty). As the so-called story unfolds, it's here that Sofia invites a quintet of fellow opulent and popular preteen mean girls for what seems an impromptu party. The guests include Cat (Haley Murphy), Sam (Sadie Seelert), Francesca (Mina Sundwall) and Georgie (Emma Adler) - all of whom coalesce in what feels like a giant museum - cold, pristine, adorned with various oddities and priceless pieces of living artwork. Turns out the lavish abode was once owned by a famous artist, a man who went on a killing spree when, get this, a vortex of four winds converged on the place to unleash an ancient curse.

Well, this very curse comes into play when the girls get soused up on whiskey and partake in a cattily mean-spirited social-media game that subjugates both Cat, the poor girl of the bunch - and Georgie, the chubby one of the bunch - to the whims to the others' crassly collective cruelty. This of course gives way to the films dubious visual gimmickry, which includes an onslaught of social media graphics inexplicably spliced in between the action - Candy Crush scores, Twitter posts, IG pics, Facebook entries, etc. - all meant to punctuate the social media milieu so integral to the movie. Yet, none of it is done tactfully, but rather distractingly, and really never offers much beyond a cheap hook for the ever-dwindling attention span of a younger demographic...a novelty it must rely in order to mask the fact that very little violence is incurred in the film until the final 15 minutes or so.

Also in the mix is Cat's papa, Dr. White, played with hysterical histrionics by Oscar winner Timothy Hutton. At least he seems to know that a he's in a movie of juvenile ridicule that cannot escape its own disdainful indictment of ineptitude. It's when he's onscreen, particularly with the other bona fide acting vet, Chloe Sevigny, that movie has any semblance of credibility. The two revel in the over-the-top nature of their characters and do their best to sell them as such. Contrarily, wasted are the one-scene cameos by both Taryn Manning and Natasha Lyonne, the latter of whom plays Cat's lowly pissed-upon mother. Potential fans of this Orange Is the New Black reunion will be displeased with how little screen time they're granted, alone or together. Nope, the film belongs in the grasp of the harem of a half-dozen 12 year old girls, a precarious set of inexperienced hands in which to carry a fully developed film. As it is, #HORROR becomes a vexingly derivative take on the stalk-and-slash subgenre, never once substantially addressing the cyber-bullying aspect beyond mere exploitative murder. No stance is taken, no solutions proffered, no wider context given for why these odious actions occur in the first place, nothing. All we get is a lamely half-baked allegory that likens bullying to a potentially fatal curse.

To that end, the most damming facet of #HORROR is how thoroughly unlikeable, if not undistinguishable, each of the monotonous 12 year old characters become. Are we supposed to side with Cat? Even after the way she berates he mother in an opening scene? Really? No, the only modicum of sympathy elicited here is in the direction of Georgie, who the other girls unbearably fat-shame through a barrage of insensitive and unforgiving epithets. It's ugly. And I get it, high-school sucks, kids are meaner than hell, but there has to be some kind of cathartic investment made here to at least root for one of the characters involved. Yet, all we get is a one-sided pileup that neither warrants nor justifies the insidious action taken in response. In other words, the bullying isn't mordant enough, just mean-spirited, and the retaliatory terror exacted on its behalf is equally pusillanimous. A shame really, and kind of a squandered opportunity to thoughtfully essay a truly maddening epidemic among young people today. Granted, the most disturbing thing about this movie is the way in which teens are depicted interacting with not just each other, but with their constantly-glued-to handheld devices - it's just that as a horror yarn, the thrills and chills are never woven tautly enough with the kind of frightful force its subject matter deserves. Even if it did, there's no one to really care about.

So yeah, #HORROR, more like #HATED IT. I really take no pleasure in being so bluntly dismissive, but for a movie so nastily mean spirited by nature, I suppose it's par for the course. The real problem for me is that movie is not very scary, and even if it were, the characters are all so damn deplorable that it doesn't make one iota of difference what happens to them. We need to care about the bullied in order to emote for the cause and even envision a panacea, yet #HORROR is woefully lacking in both regards. The examination of a real societal blight is neither presented with the serious measure it deserves, nor does any lasting sense of how cyber-bullying happens, why it happens, and what can be done it about come across at all, never mind in convincing fashion. What we're left with is a pissy half-dozen tween girls bickering over tackily superimposed social media gaming graphics. What's the point?!

Extra Tidbit: #HORROR hits limited theaters this Friday, November 20th.
Source: AITH



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