ANTISOCIAL: MOVIE REVIEW

antisocial-poster-2013Antisocial (2013)

Release Date: July 13, 2013
Director: Cody Calahan
Writer: Chad Archibald, Cody Calahan

What if the zombie virus wasn’t spread through bites from the infected? What if it didn’t start out as a biological weapon created in a lab? What if we weren’t all infected already? What if the zombie apocalypse was really started by…social media?

That’s the idea behind the horror movie/satire, Antisocial, a film that examines our modern society’s growing dependence on social media in a very gory way.

I found today to be a fitting day for this review, since it follows pretty 20-something Sam (played by Michelle Mylett) and her group of college friends on New Year’s Eve, as they host the party to end all parties. The film starts off with a brutal opening scene with two girls making a video blog post that goes horribly wrong, but then slows down dramatically, spending its time establishing its theme and introducing a group of characters who aren’t really anything special. You’ll learn very little about these people throughout the course of the movie—certainly not enough to care about any of them—and it will become quickly apparent that these are your standard horror movie stereotypes: the cool guy, the bimbo, etc. (although they do change it up with the virgin, giving her a small but predictable—and, ultimately, forgettable—character adjustment). But the theme is strong, and the final quarter of the movie is where things really kick up, with some bloody death scenes, lots of carnage, and a grand finale that makes the whole thing worth watching.

We meet up with Sam in the late afternoon as she is finishing up her college classes for the day. She’s been trying to reach her boyfriend, Dan, for a while now, with the intention of telling him some very important news (hint: she’s no virgin!). Dan finally contacts her via video chat, but he’s clearly disinterested, ignoring her and texting someone else while on the call with her. He has another girl positing on his “Social Redroom” page—the movie’s version of Facebook that the entire story centers around—and he ends up callously breaking up with Sam over video chat. Then, as soon as the call ends, he immediately changes his relationship status from “taken” to “single.”

Sam’s friends begin commenting on her page right away, many of them seeming to have known that this was coming even before she did, thus establishing the movie’s main theme of how our private lives are now becoming public, and everyone knowing everything about each other.

There are no secrets.

Sam quickly deletes her Social Redroom account in frustration, and then heads over to her friend Mark’s house for what’s supposed to be a massive New Year’s Eve celebration. But when she arrives there are only four others in attendance: Mark, Jed, Steve, and Kaitlin. The acting of the cast is decent, their emotional displays believable, but the bulk of the characterization seems to come from a few quick montages of the characters’ various Facebook—oops, I mean Social Redroom—pages, and their behavior upon her arrival. Beyond that, the characters are simply fodder for the carnage that is about to unfold.

After the initial introductions the group splits up, and the movie has a chance to build character or regain some of our attention, but they all end up as missed opportunities. None of the side conversations allow us to sufficiently get to know any of the characters. I knew nothing of any of these people’s pasts, their dreams, or fears. I had no idea how they even knew each other. Early on Kaitlin and Steve (played by Ana Alic and Romaine Waite, respectively) head to one of the upstairs bedrooms for some alone time. It’s clear that they’re together, but we never actually learn anything about their characters or relationship. Kaitlin does put on what is supposed to be a sexy striptease for Steve, which could have spiced things up and added a bit of nudity to the film, but instead it just seems to go on forever and yet she never actually takes anything off!

Luckily, the tension is maintained by a steady stream of news reports on TV and social media outlets showing a plague of violence sweeping across the globe, with people savagely turning on friends and loved ones and even on themselves. There’s a live video feed from the room where the two girls in the intro scene were filming their video blog, and the group watches as a girl covered in blood unsteadily talks about the symptoms of the disease—the nosebleeds, the hallucinations—and witness her slow, steady deterioration into madness and death.

The nightmare soon arrives on their very doorstep, and the group is forced to board up the house as the infected begin crashing through windows and climbing the balcony, trying to get inside. But they find out their efforts are for nothing as the infection finds other ways to enter their hideout, putting them all in danger…and at each other’s throats.

The overall atmosphere of the film is tense, the lighting and makeup adding to the effect, even though some of the events are a bit predictable, and some of the expository scenes that attempt to fill in the gaps about what’s going on in the outside world and with the virus a bit slow. But the last quarter of so of the move really ratchets up the horror elements, with some bloody death scenes, sinister hallucinations, and a brutal scene of self-surgery that will make even some hardcore horror fans avert their eyes from the screen.

Overall, Antisocial is an enjoyable movie and clever social commentary about how dependent on social media we have become, how it has stripped the privacy from our lives, and how silly and unnecessary it is to post status updates when we’re in the middle of important life events such as getting married, having a baby…or being chewed on by a zombie. If you go in not expecting much in the way of character development, and instead focusing on the idea for the story, the tension, and some pretty gory scenes, you won’t be disappointed.

So if you want to stay in this New Year’s Eve and watch a fun, gory flick about mindless homicidal maniacs, trust issues, and the dangers of social media, Antisocial may be just what you need. Just make sure to tell all your Facebook friends “Happy New Year” before turning it on.

You may not want to afterward.

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