★★ out of ★★★★★
Directed by Jennifer Harrington.
The tried and true tattered family dynamic. Kids love their Mom. Dad’s nowhere to be found. Sisters vigorously fight for their Mom’s love. Resentments emerge. The sister’s commitments to the family quickly fall to the insidious and ever-present need to feed the social media beast. We’ve all heard this tale before. Or have we?
Set entirely in the cramped and myopic headspace of a social media influencer, 2021’s Shook takes us on a ride to the inner darkness of our claustrophobic smart phones. The premise behind this Shudder Original is somewhat simple, however the execution is anything but. Shook follow’s a gaggle of entitled-fashion-driven-millenial-narcissists ready to set the world on fire one engaging post after another. Following Mia (Daisye Tutor) — who it turns out, isn’t really named Mia — as she wanders through the digital minefield of online makeup tutorials, her hyper-catty friends, her off-putting sister, and her recently deceased mother.
Mia, in a fit of selflessness brought on by her mother’s passing and her sister’s needs, agrees to spend a weekend watching her nondescript fashion accessory of a dog. Mia’s sister, the perfectly cracked Nicole (Emily Goss), is off for the weekend to take sometime for herself after the non-stop care and feeding required by her formerly ailing, and now deceased, mother.
The evening unfolds with Mia concretely parked on the couch cuddled up with her true and only friend, her smart phone. A simple evening brought on by a simple, but tragic event. In full repose, Mia immediately starts to receive strange texts, posts, and video messages from her friends and the creepy next door neighbor, Kellan. The texts and calls become progressively more sinister and eventually stumble over the cyber threshold in to a full throated maze of tricks and traps.
Shook’s misdirection is layered and oddly complex. Suspension of massive piles of disbelief becomes a critical element in making it through the entire one hour and 28 minutes. While the subterfuge and misdirection comes through the phones, the videos, the voice modulators, and generally evil intent, the director paints a very sweaty picture where social media is the true villain. It’s not Mia and it’s not her self-aggrandizing pals, but it’s the ever-present push to present perfection to the masses.
Shook makes Saw look like a pretty clear linear through line of a story. The need to incorporate every possible technology, emerging or otherwise, force the viewer out of the story and, in a distracted way, constantly ask yourself “…why doesn’t Mia just do X?”
Shook does employ a pretty well conceived split screen for texts and other social media, and using an interesting visual device, the posts often hang projected on the walls of the house. It gives the viewer a chance to fully immerse themselves in the resentment and terror that’s being hoisted on Mia, and if you’re big on tricks and traps in your movie-going then Shook may be for you. But, be forewarned, narcissistic millennials aren’t great protagonists and the bunch of them will have you wondering whether you should be rooting for Mia’s tortured plight or a new service plan from AT&T.
Shook is likely Rated R and currently streaming on Shudder.