New streaming on Shudder!
Directed by Jennifer Harrington
Written by Jennifer Harrington, Alesia Glidewell
Starring Daisye Tutor, Emily Goss, Nicola Posener, Stephanie Simbari, Octavius J. Johnson, Grant Rosenmeyer, Jeremy Bolden, Genelle Seldon
YouTube beauty influencer Mia (Daisye Tutor) spends her day filming herself putting on makeup, trying on clothes, and filming herself living a lush and party filled lifestyle. When another influencer is murdered by a serial dog killer who is terrorizing LA, Mia makes it a point to post that she is taking some me-time and babysitting her sister’s dog while she is out of town since everyone is on edge about the serial dog killer. Having just lost their mother, Mia and her sister Nicole (Emily Goss) have a tenuous relationship as Nicole has a real job and carried the bulk of responsibilities with taking care of their ailing mother. Now Nicole is exhibiting symptoms of the same disease and Mia has promised to take care of her just as Nicole took care of their mother. With Mia home alone with the pup, she begins getting disturbing messages and begins to get the feelings that she’s not so alone after all.
SHOOK is an overly complex and simplistically stupid film. The best part of SHOOK occurs right during the opening credits as Mia and two other influencers are seemingly standing in front of a large red-carpet setup with cameras flashing and adoring fans, capturing the glamorous, glitzy lifestyle they are leading. The camera then takes a few steps back to reveal that it is all a setup with a handful of people trying to make this red-carpet event seem like a big deal simply for hits and more strokes to the influencers’ egos. This is a biting commentary on the influencer culture, showing it for the fake reality these reality stars place themselves into, but it is the only meat on the bony structure of this film.
The rest of the film is Mia being narcissistic, clueless, careless, and overly involved in her lifestyle to be bothered with the simple responsibility of caring for a dog. It’s one of those films that if you look at the blueprint that needs to be followed for the stalker to do what they are doing; an insane and impossible amount of forethought and planning would have had to be put into it all. Mia is flitting around the home, blogging, checking other people’s feeds, ignoring friend requests, and all the while she is oblivious to the world around her, so I guess this is an accurate portrayal of a young, self-involved gal, but that doesn’t mean it’s a believable plot or a likable character or story. And while Mia’s backstory is complex and makes her somewhat sympathetic in that she is throwing herself into her YouTube channel and social image so as not to deal with the real-world things around her, it still puts her in an unlikable light. This makes it really hard to feel sorry for her as in any other horror film, she would be the ditzy blonde who gets killed after she shows her tits. When the killer is revealed, one of two big reveals in this film, the motivation and setup that is required to accomplish the stalking and the killing is just as trivial and self-centered as Mia herself.
Even past the ridiculously over-complex plot, when are people going to realize cell phones aren’t scary? I understand that horror has made scores of films turning common items into things of sheer terror. Still, seeing someone check their Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter feeds and reacting to them for an hour and a half isn’t intriguing or engaging even if it is projected all artsy like on the wall behind her. I guess if you are a person who has their phone inches from their face every waking second of the day, this might be a film that works on you. But for me, it made me want to take a break from all social media watching this brainless simp trying to be made out to be a hero.
Finally, a serial dog killer? Really. As if animal death in films isn’t hard enough to swallow, making your antagonist a serial dog killer who all of a sudden begins killing people is just…it’s just plain dumb. Like I didn’t have enough reasons to hate this film, it kills dogs too and doesn’t have the self-awareness to know how off-putting that is.
SHOOK is trying to say something deep about the social influencer age but just ends up being another bad example of it. Anyone who remembers land line phones and dial-up internet are going to find this film aggravating and sad. SHOOK isn’t progressive storytelling. It’s teenie-bopper horror that puts itself in a bad light and isn’t self-aware enough to know it.