#Horror full movie review - Slumber party massacre: the Millennial Candy Crush edition
I had the pleasure of being able to see "#Horror" at the New York City Horror Film Festival with director Tara Subkoff and the young cast in attendance.
I'm a fan of Subkoff's art, and also of many of the cast members, so I've been waiting to see the film since I first heard it had been announced. The plot focuses on one night in a chic, secluded mansion where a group of privileged Connecticut adolescents are having a sleepover. Internal bullying and cyber- obsession amongst the girls drives the evening into increasingly dark territory, culminating in bloodshed and murder.
As much as "#Horror" is a genre picture, it is also vital to note that the film is in more ways a satire on cyberculture and 21st century youth, which is reiterated time and time again with chaotic montages of digital media graphics, uploads, and live streams at the hands of the girls in the film. The subject matter in and of itself is Subkoff's thematic core, while the genre fixings are merely her method of employing the story.
The film is exceptionally shot? beautiful, atmospheric photography of rural Connecticut winter landscapes establish the setting for the night's antics to unfold. Snow, dead trees, and barren forests give the film an unsettling wintry feel. The sleek and chic cubic mansion is nearly a character in and of itself with metaphorical significance, boxing the girls and the adult figure (Chloë Sevigny, in this case) in their own respective worlds. The house is a beacon of wealth and luxury, designed and furnished more as a multi-million dollar art gallery than a home; while this does provide for flashy aesthetics which may come across as ostentatious, the setting is vital to what is being conveyed here; it isn't arbitrary, and correlates with the very world that is being examined. The sterilized environment of affluence serves the film well, and I'd imagine Subkoff wrote the script with it in mind, or at the very least, a house much like it.
I've read some comments across the internet questioning the film's worth as a "scary" piece of cinema?after all, it is twelve year old girls who lead the audience through this macabre odyssey, right? As a hardened genre fan, I did not find the film "scary," but there are some great, disturbing images that are throttled at the audience in the final act, and the atmospheric tension is what really took me into the film and kept me compelled. There are visual nods to Dario Argento, and I also couldn't help but wonder if Subkoff's choice of masks were riffs on the "Last House on Dead End Street" or "Alice, Sweet Alice"? regardless, they are appropriately sinister.
The cast here is fantastic. The adult figures in the film are mostly Subkoff's own friends, including minor performances from Natasha Lyonne, Stella Schnabel, and Taryn Manning; Chloë Sevigny takes on the primary matron of the film. Sevigny is very much at home in the role, and gives the boozy socialite mother an unexpected depth that at times reminded me of Joan Crawford?her performance is understated and skilled, which is typical of Sevigny. Timothy Hutton plays the hysterical millionaire doctor whose troubled daughter finds herself at the center of the girls' fighting, and is both funny and intimidating in equal measure. The young actresses in the film are the real heart of the picture though; as much as the film is a meditation on plutocratic parenting (or lack thereof), the world of these girls is ultimately what is being analyzed. The casting of young actors can make or break a film, and Subkoff had a great eye for who she chose to take on these roles?they are not flawless performances, but each of the girls are commendably talented and capably handle the material.
There were moments where I did feel the film was spinning in on itself with the repetitive montages of the girls frolicking around the house and playing endless dress-up games, though I cannot negate the reality or non-reality of this? I'm a 25-year-old male who came of age in a considerably different world, when the internet and social media was still a nascent cultural force. While these scenes do grow slightly monotonous around the hour mark, the film then begins edging into genre conventions that have their own digital twist. There is an unusual and striking score present at key moments, and the film concludes with a somber violin piece that accentuates the downbeat and surprisingly disturbing ending.
Overall, "#Horror" is solid film, and a nice debut for Subkoff. Employing the horror genre in the way she does provides a clever mode for storytelling, especially given the contemporary thematic center of the film, and chilling visuals and cinematography carry it along elegantly. It is not a film that can or should be approached as a slice-and-dice picture, because that's not what it is? there is slashing, no doubt, but it is secondary to what is really being dissected in the script. "#Horror" is a far cry from the territory of last year's "Unfriended," and is frankly all the more interesting for it. It may be the most interesting film about cyberculture and youth cruelty that we've seen yet. 8/10.