★★out of ★★★★★
Directed by Dean Matthew Ronalds
A silly premise spread too thin.
In #Screamers, a wannabe youtube startup called Gigaler receives two anonymous jumpscare videos that appear to feature a missing woman. One of the company co-creators becomes determined to uncover the mystery of the video. Scariest Thing’s contributor Robert gave me the heads up about this shaky-cam flick after seeing that it wasn’t on my top 50 list.
The movie should be a ten-minute short, really. There’s nothing more here than a premise. As a shaky cam enthusiast, I watched the introductory fluff with careful scrutiny, because the things that a found footage-style movie chooses to tell you has to be so much more deliberate than other genres. Each info tidbit has to be carefully placed just so, establishing characters and supernatural rules so that once the screaming and rapid camera angles kick in, the audience has some idea what’s going on. So, I took note of the detailed explanation about the website’s algorithm, the co-creator’s recent divorce, the cameraman’s aversion to milk. Unfortunately, these are just padding and never come back around again. The plot – hey, let’s go see what’s up with the creator of a jumpscare video – is just really too simplistic to stretch itself 85 minutes.
The jumpscare video itself, one of those prank videos where viewers stare really closely at something only to have someone jump out and scream, is pretty basic. A girl in a white dress walks through a graveyard and a dude in a mask jumps at the screen. The Gigaler employees lose their friggin’ minds. They think it’s the best thing since sliced bread. “Front page!” they announce triumphantly. Ooo-kay. They love the videos (the second one is the girl lying in bed and a dude in a mask jumping at the screen) so much that they want to buy exclusive rights to them. Soon, it comes to light that the girl in the video looks like a girl who has been missing for two years. They dive into a deep analysis of the video which shows that the girl is standing in front of a potential Jack the Ripper’s gravestone. This really pisses them off, for some reason, as they feel that they are being pranked. Again, ooo-kay. So, they go to confront the videos’ creators. That goes as well as you’d expect from a horror movie, but also more abruptly than I expected, and the movie is over and I’m wondering why they bothered to set up anything about algorithms and ping pong tables.
The acting was good. The camerawork, mostly shot in a documentary-style, was good. The characters are obnoxiously business mantra personifications. What this movie lacked was a nice scissor-happy editor to clip it down as short as it should have been.
Screamers is not rated and is available for rent on Amazon Prime. (And not to be confused with the equally unimpressive Screamers featuring Peter Weller from 1994)