Spree overview: in search of an audience
Welcome to Cheat Sheet, our breakdown-style opinions of competition movies, VR previews, and different particular occasion releases. This overview comes from the 2020 Sundance Film Festival.
When a real-life killer finds fame on a discussion board or a social community — a pattern that’s turn out to be depressingly frequent in latest years — there are two widespread conclusions. The first is that social media is a few variety of new, unprecedented evil, as if the Zodiac killer by no means crafted an elaborate model technique by native newspapers, or TV information by no means helped flip mass shooters into celebrities. The second is that fashionable net platforms merely produce their very own distinct varieties of nightmares, ones that twist their healthful guarantees of openness and belief.
Spree, a horror-comedy directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko, captures the latter with exceptional model. It makes use of an experimental mix of naturalistic filmmaking and pictures from telephone apps, following a person who needs desperately and pathetically to be observed — even when that entails a mass homicide marketing campaign with a viral hashtag.
What’s the style?
Spree’s plot is principally a Black Mirror episode, and its aesthetic blends found-footage strategies with the “screen film” model of films like Searching and Unfriended. Most motion is shot diegetically by GoPro and telephone cameras, together with so much of Periscope-esque vertical video overlaid with audience reactions.
Tonally, it’s a typically queasy combine of satire and slasher movie, carried by an over-the-top efficiency from Stranger Things star Joe Keery. The plot isn’t primarily based on true occasions, however it’s tied pretty realistically into the world of tech and social media, fictionalizing some controversies and referencing an precise mass homicide by an Uber driver in 2016.
What’s it about?
A failed pseudo-Uber driver and web content material creator (Keery) decides to “go viral” by embarking on a livestreamed homicide spree known as #TheLesson. This is unbearably and deliberately cringeworthy.
Kurt (who introduces himself as “KurtsWorld96”) is a social media technique information made flesh. He’s a self-described content material creator who produces hours of unhealthy digital music and introspective movies that no one watches. His thought of a conversation-starter is “how did you grow your following?”, and his face is about completely in a manic grin. As a driver for the ride-hailing app Spree, he obsessively asks riders to tag him on Instagram and swears that he at all times follows again.
#TheLesson, an elaborate scheme to kill Spree customers, is Kurt’s closing try to develop his audience. But a depressingly mediocre streamer who murders folks… continues to be only a depressingly mediocre streamer. So to his horror, no one actually cares and even believes the deaths are actual. As Kurt goes to higher and higher lengths to impress viewers, he turns into fixated on a profitable social media star named Jessie Adams (Sasheer Zamata), who has began to have her personal misgivings about being well-known on-line.
What’s it actually about?
Spree is a savage dissection of digital social climbing. Kurt is on the backside of the ladder, clearly. But because the movie expands its focus to Jessie, we see the identical dynamics play out at different ranges of web stardom. Characters interact with one another by rigorously figuring out their relative standing, then making an attempt to movie or be filmed by the most important star in the room — conveyed by some efficient enhancing tips, like scenes enjoying out throughout footage from a number of folks’s telephones without delay.
This habits appears to be like so much like old school energy jockeying. But Spree emphasizes the particular strain of social media’s instantaneous suggestions loop and hyper-quantification. Comments from followers pop up on the backside of the display screen, typically mocking the characters and typically egging them on. Instead of subjectively judging anyone’s affect, folks depend on the cruel metrics of views and follower counts.
Spree additionally places ahead a bleakly amoral imaginative and prescient of the web financial system. Kurt’s politics are all monetization methods — he’ll name out a white supremacist on his stay homicide stream as a result of platforms don’t like racism, and he despises homeless folks as a result of they aren’t on-line sufficient. His hashtag, #TheLesson, evokes an aggrieved alt-right troll or an overzealous social justice campaign. But it’s truly a literal information for getting well-known, together with an tutorial video for a lethal craft mission.
Jessie, in the meantime, is a black girl whose comedy calls out racism and misogyny. But in Spree, she’s caught enjoying the identical sport as Kurt — any real idealism is shortly captured, repackaged, and posted on-line. The real-world web tradition wars nonetheless exist right here, however they’re simply opposing corners of one large content material farm.
Is it good?
Keery pulls off the trick of being creepy, unhappy, and enjoyable to look at whilst he’s descending deeper and deeper into monstrosity. And the movie leans onerous into darkish comedy reasonably than outright horror, which saves it from seeming like technophobic scaremongering or a “kids these days” ethical panic. If you’re the sort of one who can snigger at slapstick homicide vignettes, so much of Spree works very effectively.
On the opposite hand, these vignettes finally begin feeling repetitive. Spree stalls out in the center with some scenes which can be enjoyable on their very own, however don’t add sufficient to the movie’s central joke that social media followers are shallow and assume every thing is a prank. Kurt’s victims are often as unpleasantly self-obsessed as he’s, so with the exception of Jessie, it’s onerous to get invested in their fates. And when Spree absolutely commits to the concept that Kurt’s murders are a microcosm of… *movie gesticulates wildly at social media*, it doesn’t have sufficient time to make its case.
How can I truly watch it?
Spree is presently looking for distribution.