The Plot: Twentysomething Kurt (Joe Keery) is a rideshare driver in Los Angeles on an app called Spree. He desperately wants to be a social media star, but his random followers are in the double digits and Bobby (Joshua Ovalle) is his only committed viewer. His content isn’t exactly thrilling. Livestreaming his rideshare drives, he interacts with a bunch of obnoxious, self-absorbed L.A. types. It’s enough to literally drive him crazy, which he duly does when he decides to start drugging and killing his passengers on camera. He soon becomes viral and develops an obsession with passenger Jessie (Sasheer Zamata), a fellow social media personality who knows how to get those all-important likes…
The Verdict: ‘Unfriended’ started it and now it appears to have bizarrely taken off as someone’s idea of what a modern film should be. The very idea of ‘screen-based films’ is dubious at best, with the entire film taking place inside a dizzying array of mobile phone and laptop screens. Unfriended and its unwanted sequel were unbearably boring but Searching at least played around with it to intriguing effect. New release Spree cleaves more to the former, in that the audience is asked to buy into its concept without any real investment in the characters, their motivations or any logical reason at all. It’s mystifying why this sorry excuse of a ‘horror film’ is crawling out into cinema screens, when watching it on a laptop at home is more in tune with its vibe.
If you were to put ‘Taxi Driver’ and notorious video nasty ‘The Driller Killer’ into a blender, along with a dashing of narcissistic social media angst then the result is a film that’s trying to be cool but is rather tiresome instead. It actually starts promisingly enough, with Kurt’s unwillingness to tell his rides to put on a seatbelt already a red flag that something is off. There is a certain glee in watching him offing his horrible random passengers, with Keery’s wild card performance being smarmy enough to be in on the joke. That will only get an audience so far though. Kurt’s developing obsession with Jessie at least has a modicum of story development to it, in that they’re contrasting characters who both want to be popular on social media. She’s smart and provocative, he’s a dull-minded creep. He could learn something from her. If only the film had made more of this.
Director Eugene Kotlyarenko doesn’t know where to take his script, co-written with Gene McHugh. Most of it seems randomly assembled like a jigsaw puzzle, when half the pieces are missing. Characters flit in and out, including a wasted David Arquette – presumably waiting for that ‘Scream 5’ call to come in. There are no relatable characters here, making it a difficult film to tap into. Even worse are lapses in logic. Kurt’s new-found followers think everything is staged, but that doesn’t wash. Did anyone think of calling the police? A random character wakes up, grabs a gun and kills another character just like that. This isn’t filmmaking by any normal definition of the word. Death by mobile phone isn’t the new death by stereo either. ‘Spree’ really has little to offer anyone and soon gets increasingly tedious and inexplicable. ‘This is so cringe’ comments one follower on Kurt’s livestream. Indeed.
Rating: 1 / 5
Review by Gareth O’Connor
SPREE Irish Release Date : August 14th
Spree (USA / TBC / 93 mins)
In short: #SoCringe
Directed by Eugene Kotlyarenko.
Starring Joe Keery, Sasheer Zamata, David Arquette, Joshua Ovalle, Mischa Barton.